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Israel election: Netanyahu calls on rival Gantz to form unity government together

19 September 2019

Decades of marginalization have bred voter apathy, and in April's elections more than half the Arab electorate stayed home.

"In order to form a unity government, one can't come with political blocs and spins", Gantz said, according to Israel's Haaretz newspaper. He said, "In the next few days, we will begin negotiations to form a strong, Zionist government and in order to avert a unsafe, anti-Zionist government", a reference to the Blue and White, which he denounces for being ready to work with the MPs from the Arab Joint List. He appointed Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to guide his coalition negotiations.

The stakes for Netanyahu are excessive. Israel's attorney general has recommended charging him with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three scandals.

Netanyahu acknowledged that he promised a right-wing government during the election, but: "The results of the election showed it is not possible".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz were deadlocked with almost all votes from the country's general election counted on Wednesday, Israeli media reported. And a solid coalition needs at least 61 of the 120 parliamentary seats.

Gantz's centre-left bloc can only manage 56 seats.

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A joint list of Arab parties put on a strong showing in Tuesday's election, winning 13 seats.

Nahum Barnea, a prominent columnist with Israel's main daily Yedioth Ahronoth, said the Joint List's achievement should be measured not in the number of seats it won but in "its ability to build bridges to the mainstream of Israeli politics and society". "There is clearly a price for incitement".

It also seemed to be a swipe at Gantz, and the possibility that Netanyahu's rival might try for a governing coalition with the tacit support of an Arab party, which many right-wingers see as disloyal to Israel.

He has not declared in favour of either of the two leading contenders.

"It will take some time, but this increases the probability of Likud moving Netanyahu aside and joining a unity government with Blue and White", stated Dan Shapiro, former USA ambassador to Israel and analysis fellow on the Institute for Nationwide Safety Research in Tel Aviv.

A spokeswoman for Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, had no immediate response to the surprise offer from Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Netanyahu voiced disappointment at Gantz's rejection of his offer to discuss forming a unity government but said he remained opened to talks.

With results still pouring in, Lieberman insisted the overall picture was unlikely to change.

Both a Gantz-led Centre-Left and a Netanyahu-led Right-wing coalition do not have enough men to conquer the helm.

"It is a shame to waste more time; we need to get on this track as soon as possible", Liberman stated.

Benjamin's Netanyahu coalition is six seats short of a majority in parliament.

The final election results can take more than a week, but partial results are published by the Knesset, Israel's national legislature, as the vote-counting proceeds, so a clearer picture will likely emerge within a day before the final tally.

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But Netanyahu accused his former ally of plotting to oust him from office out of personal spite. Rivlin gave no indication which way he would go. That would give him the opportunity to meet with high-level visiting dignitaries and gain access to some sensitive security information.

Benny Gantz wants to unite Israel.

Netanyahu positioned worry of Arab management close to the middle of his marketing campaign, and the thought of Arabs within the authorities unnerved a few of his supporters.

"The country is not going to tolerate Arab parties being part of the government because of all the bombings coming in from Gaza, Syria and Lebanon", said Bruce Lilling, 65, a semiretired patent lawyer and dual citizen of Israel and the United States who was running errands in West Jerusalem. He had voted for the Yamina celebration, an ultranationalist right-wing faction.

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Israel election: Netanyahu calls on rival Gantz to form unity government together