- Gantz party urges Likud to dump Netanyahu for alliance
- Election on Tuesday ended in deadlock
- Weeks of negotiations could be ahead
Israel’s weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw his offer yesterday for a coalition with his strongest political rival, Benny Gantz, swiftly rebuffed after failing to secure a governing majority in a tight election.
Netanyahu’s surprise move was an abrupt change of strategy for the right-wing leader. Its rejection could spell weeks of wrangling after Tuesday’s election, which followed an inconclusive national ballot in April.
Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party emerged from the second round of voting this year slightly ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud, but also short of enough supporters in the 120-member parliament for a ruling bloc.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, said in a video clip in which he urged Gantz, the country’s former military chief, to meet him “as soon as today”, that he had pledged during the election campaign to form a right-wing, Likud-led government.
Responding to Netanyahu’s call, Gantz made no mention of the prime minister and said he himself would head a “liberal” coalition.
But he then left it to Moshe Yaalon, a fellow Blue and White leader, to deliver a stinging rejection of a partnership with Netanyahu.
“We will not enter a coalition led by Netanyahu,” Yaalon said, echoing a position Gantz had taken throughout the election campaign and appearing to suggest that an alliance with Likud would be possible if it dumped its veteran chief.
“The time has come for you to tell Netanyahu, ‘thank you for all you’ve done’,” Yaalon urged Likud members - who have shown no sign so far of rebellion.
With Israeli media reporting more than 95 percent of votes counted in Tuesday’s election, a Likud-led right-wing, religious bloc looked poised to control 55 of parliament’s 120 seats, with 56 going to a centre-left alliance.
Once all the votes are counted, President Reuven Rivlin will hold consultations with parties that won representation in parliament and give one of its leaders up to 42 days to form a government.
The political deadlock left former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, as a potential kingmaker in the coalition-building. He has called for a secular unity government.