Jerusalem: Benjamin Netanyahu’s main challenger Benny Gantz presented himself Thursday as the next Israeli Prime Minister, hours after the embattled premier urged the Blue and White leader to join him in forming a unity government to avoid a third election.
With 98 per cent of the votes counted, Gantz’s Blue and White party has won 33 seats while Netanyahu’s Likud secured 31 seats in 120-member Israeli parliament. Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc, comprised of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, currently stands at 55 seats. The centre-left bloc has 57 seats.
President Reuven Rivlin will begin talks with the parties Sunday to see who they might recommend to form the next government, a statement from his office said.
The announcement came after 60-year-old Benny Gantz said he intends to form and lead a ‘broad, liberal, unity government’.
“After an election that was forced on Israel, (people) voted and made a clear choice. The people voted for unity and Kahol Lavan won the election. It’s the biggest party,” Gantz added.
Gantz said he will not accept any dictates. “There will be no shortcuts,” asserted Gantz.
His comments came after 69-year-old Netanyahu said he wanted to form a right-wing government, but the results showed it was not possible. He called on Gantz to meet him ‘at any hour today’ in order to hold discussions for a unity government.
“Benny, it’s on us to establish a wide unity government today. The nation expects us, the both of us, to work together. Let’s meet today. At any time, at any moment. In order to begin this process that is demanded of us at this time,” Netanyahu told reporters sending a message to Gantz.
“We cannot and have no reason to go to a third election. I oppose it. The call of the hour is to form a broad unity government today. There is no choice but to establish a wide unity government as wide as possible that’s made up of all the officials that Israel called on,” ‘The Jerusalem Post’ quoted Netanyahu as saying.