Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 January 2020

Netanyahu in last-ditch effort to form Israeli unity government with Gantz

Corruption allegations have given him a greater incentive to stay in power

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been tasked by Israel’s president to form a government. AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been tasked by Israel’s president to form a government. AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that he would make a final effort this week to form a unity government with his centrist election rival Benny Gantz.

After an inclusive general election on September 17, the second this year, there has been a political deadlock that has weakened the Israeli leader's position.

His right-wing Likud party came second with 32 seats in a 120-member Parliament, compared with 33 for Mr Gantz’s Blue and White party.

Mr Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, is facing corruption allegations that could lead to his indictment.

He denies them but they have reduced his popularity. He has failed to secure a clear election victory twice in six months.

Mr Netanyahu's legal woes may have given him a greater incentive to stay in power, amid speculation that he is seeking to pass a law that would protect leaders from prosecution.

The hearing into the corruption allegations next week will probably overshadow the prime minister’s efforts to form a government.

His hearing before Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, is due to begin on October 2.

Israeli television reported that Mr Mandelblit aims to deliver a verdict in November.

The Blue and White party has also said it will not sit in a government whose leader is facing arrest.

Neither leader is able to easily form a majority coalition. If Mr Netanyahu fails to secure a deal, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will likely ask Mr Gantz to form a government.

The two parties' negotiating teams met on Friday but were unable to secure a deal and blamed each other for the impasse.

Mr Netanyahu leader called Mr Gantz on Sunday in a last-ditch effort to form a unity government before returning the mandate to Mr Rivlin, his Likud party said.

Mr Gantz is in London this weekend and Mr Netanyahu offered to meet him when he returned to Israel on Wednesday.

The prime minister even offered to meet Mr Gantz at his home.

Updated: October 29, 2019 12:43 AM

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