Sunday 20 October 2019

Gantz calls on Netanyahu to stand aside as parliament is sworn in


'We'll take reins': Benny Gantz wants Benjamin Netanyahu to quit. Photo: Reuters
'We'll take reins': Benny Gantz wants Benjamin Netanyahu to quit. Photo: Reuters

Aron Heller

Israel has sworn in its newly elected parliament for what could be a very short term after the country's second inconclusive election of the year left it with no new government on the horizon.

The typically festive event was marked mostly by uncertainty, as the two main candidates for prime minister sniped at each other over who should lead the country.

It also came in parallel to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's high-profile pre-indictment hearing on corruption charges, which have threatened to end his political career and contributed to the paralysis of the country's political system.

Neither Mr Netanyahu nor his chief rival Benny Gantz has been able to build a parliamentary majority with their natural allies. They now depend on each other for a unity government as the only likely alternative to an unprecedented third election in less than a year.

Talks between the two sides appear to have stalled, though, with Mr Netanyahu insisting on remaining prime minister and holding on to his ultra-Orthodox and nationalist partners. Mr Gantz's centrist Blue and White party is sticking to its campaign vow not to sit with Mr Netanyahu because of his perilous legal standing.

"The right thing for the citizens of Israel, especially at this time, is for the prime minister to be busy working for them and not preoccupied with indictments," Mr Gantz said at a party meeting. "I call upon Netanyahu: Do not barricade yourself in your position. We will take the reins from here and lead the country for the good of the citizens."

For the sake of unity, Mr Gantz's deputy, Yair Lapid, announced he was forgoing a previous arrangement to share the premiership should they come to power.

"It's far more important to me that there's unity in the country. That there won't be another election. That this country begins a healing process," he said.

Mr Netanyahu said he had no intention of stepping down and it was the "will of the people" to form a unity government with him.

Irish Independent

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