Gantz tells Netanyahu to stand aside amid stalemate
Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel's centrist party, insisted yesterday that he would "not be dictated to" by Benjamin Netanyahu in post-election negotiations, and repeated his demand that the prime minister resign to make way for a new unity government.
Mr Netanyahu's position is looking perilous after Mr Gantz's Blue and White party won the most seats and may be given the first chance at forming a government.
"Blue and White, headed by me, has won the election. Blue and White is the largest party," Mr Gantz said.
"The process of building a government has begun. We will not be dictated to."
While neither side has a clear path to a majority, Mr Gantz has a stronger hand. His party appears to have won 33 seats, compared with 31 won by Mr Netanyahu's Likud.
Parties opposed to Mr Netanyahu also won 57 seats, just shy of a 61-seat majority, while right-wing parties supporting the prime minister won 55.
The balance of power is held by Avigdor Lieberman, a secular nationalist, who emerged as a political kingmaker after his Yisrael Beiteinu party won eight seats. Mr Lieberman is set to lend his support to Mr Gantz, Israeli media say, but he has yet to say so officially.
Reuven Rivlin, Israel's president, will make a decision next week on who should be tasked with forming a government.
Mr Netanyahu has attempted to fight back in attempts to cling to power. He formed a pact with other right-wing parties, pledging that they would only enter into coalition together or not at all.
Mr Netanyahu called on Mr Gantz to join his coalition in a unity government, saying "the nation expects us, both of us, to accept responsibility and work together". Mr Gantz dismissed the offer as "spin".
If Mr Gantz is unable to forge a pact with Likud, then he faces the daunting task of trying to form a majority. He would have a maximum of 42 days. If he fails, Mr Netanyahu could get another chance.
Israel could be plunged into a third election in a year if neither side reaches a majority. (© Daily Telegraph, London)