Gantz demands extension to form Israel unity government

Gantz demands extension to form unity government amid virus crisis
2 min read
12 April, 2020
Failed negotiations between former opposition leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could plunge the country into a fourth consecutive election in just over a year.
Gantz has until Monday to reach a deal [Getty]
Benny Gantz, leader of Israel's Blue and White Party, on Saturday asked the country’s president for a two-week extension, following stalled efforts to finalise a deal on forming a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

Gantz, Netanyahu's chief rival in three elections over the past year, had been tasked with forming a new government by Israel's president last month, after winning the backing of a narrow majority of members of the newly elected parliament.

In an unexpected turnaround, Israel's opposition leader later said he would seek to form an "emergency" government with Netanyahu's Likud party to confront a growing coronavirus crisis.

Driven in part by politically contentious endorsement recieved from the Arab Joint list, Gantz's decision caused his Blue and White alliance to disintegrate, leaving him at the helm of a party now a shadow of its former self. 

The emergency government will likely keep Netanyahu in the prime minister’s post for a year and a half - despite facing trial over corruption allegations - before Gantz takes his place.

Read more: Israel’s coronavirus coup: Netanyahu’s tightening grip on power boders badly for Palestinians 

With talks between the two leaders stalling last week, Gantz has until Monday to reach a deal.

Late on Saturday, he announced he would ask the country's figurehead president, Reuven Rivlin, for a two-week extension.

"I believe that we are close to signing an agreement, and that with additional time an agreement can be finalized," he said.

Gantz is unlikely to be a significant restraining influence on Netanyahu and has already accepted the principal of Trump's "Deal of the Century", endorsing annexation of the Jordan Valley, which he has termed "an inseparable part of the state".

However, his opposition to unilateral annexation of West Bank settlements has been a sticking point between the two in negotiations, according to Israeli media reports.

He is now mulling a "limited" annexation of settlement blocs – considered illegal as part of international law – beyond the separation wall, where there a high concentration of settlers, as part of the unity government deal.

Yet he insists that the proposed unity government focuses on tackling the pandemic for until after the crisis has passed.

Though unlikely, failed negotiations between the two leaders could plunge the country into a fourth consecutive election in just over a year. 

Read more: Israel’s Gantz ‘ready to accept’ limited West Bank annexation in coronavirus unity government deal

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