Thunderclap in Israel, Benny Gantz paves the way for the maintenance of Benjamin Netanyahu


Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist “Blue and White” party. – Oded Balilty / AP / SIPA

A deal that could end the worst political crisis in Israeli history. Benny Gantz was elected speaker of the Israeli parliament on Thursday as part of a potential power-sharing agreement with
his rival Benjamin Netanyahu.

Thursday afternoon in Jerusalem, the small political world awaited the election of a new president of the Parliament, the day after the resignation of Yuli Edelstein, a close relation of the outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing party Likoud.

A dramatic twist

Benny Gantz, number one in the centrist “Blue-White” party, which was appointed on March 16 to form the new government after the last election on March 2, was to run for one of its deputies for the post. But in a dramatic move, he presented his own candidacy, the only one besides for this post. He was immediately elected by 74 votes to 18, notably obtaining the votes of the deputies of Likoud, but losing support in his own camp, members of “Bleu-Blanc” having refused to endorse this rapprochement with the party of Benjamin Netanyahu.

And just after his election, Benny Gantz called for a “government of unity and urgency” to manage the coronavirus crisis. For more than a year, Benny Gantz, a former army chief, has not held the post of Speaker of Parliament, but that of Prime Minister. He was therefore charged by President Reuven Rivlin to form the government in the wake of the third legislative elections in less than a year against Benjamin Netanyahu. The latter had obtained his best score at the head of Likud – 36 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset – but without however succeeding in winning a majority.

A government of unity but also of “emergency”

Benny Gantz was chosen because he had won the support of more MPs than his rival in an attempt to form a government, while the country has been led by transitional cabinets for more than 15 months. The aim of the maneuver is “to form a government with Netanyahu,” said a member of the “Bleu-Blanc” coalition, who was also on the verge of imploding on Thursday. Shortly after Benny Gantz’s announcement, party leaders Yaïr Lapid and Moshe Yaalon said they were leaving the ship.

Meanwhile, teams of Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu are holding talks in hopes of delivering a unity government and also an “emergency”, the Hebrew state facing the coronavirus pandemic. But already allies of Benjamin Netanyahu have welcomed the decision of the former army chief who seemed to have given up. “I congratulate Benny Gantz on his courageous decision to join a unity government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the right decision for Israel during this health emergency, “said Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

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