Jerusalem: Benjamin Netanyahu’s main challenger Benny Gantz on Thursday presented himself as the next prime minister, hours after the embattled Israeli premier urged the Blue and White leader to join him in forming a unity government to avoid a third election. With 98 per cent of the votes counted, Gantz’s Blue and White party has won 33 seats while Netanyahu’s Likud secu-red 31 seats in 120-member Israeli Parliament.
Netanyahu’s bloc, comprised of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, currently stands at 55 seats. The centre-left bloc has 57 seats.
President Reuven Rivlin will begin talks with the parties on Sunday to see who they might recommend to form the next government, a statement from his office said.
The announcement came after 60-year-old Gantz said he intends to form and lead a “broad, liberal, unity government.” “After an election that was forced on Israel, (people) voted and made a clear choice. The people voted for unity and Kahol Lavan won the election. It's the biggest party,” he added. He said the Israeli people wanted a unity government after the last election too and vowed to form a “broad, liberal unity government.”
“In order to form a unity government, one can’t come with political blocs and spins,” Gantz said, referring to the right-wing religious bloc’s move to recommend Netanyahu as the next PM after no clear winner emerged in the unprecedented repeat polls. “You come with responsibility and seriousness. I attend to act accordingly,” Gantz was quoted as saying by the Haaretz.
Gantz said he will not accept any dictates. “There will be no shortcuts.” His comments came after 69-year-old Netanyahu said he wanted to form a right-wing government, but the results showed it was not possible. He called on Gantz to meet him “at any hour today” in order to hold discussions for a unity government. “Benny, it’s on us to establish a wide unity government today. Let’s meet today. At any time, at any moment. In order to begin this process that is demanded of us at this time,” he said.