Israel's Benny Gantz tasked with forming coalition government


After failing to form a government for the second time in two consecutive elections, Benjamin Netanyahu will be forced to watch from the sidelines as his opponent Benny Gantz is given the opportunity to give it a go.

The TV network quoted a Blue and White source as saying the party would not necessarily accept the president's outline, but was coming to negotiations to talk about everything and would wait to hear what Likud had to say.

While trying to negotiate his coalition in October, he also attended hearings with the attorney general, who will decide whether or not to charge Mr Netanyahu with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three cases.

The president's outline calls for a rotation government led by a partnership of Likud and Blue&White, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister in the first half of the rotation and Gantz serving as deputy prime minister.

The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement responding to the report on Thursday that attacked the prosecution, claiming that "Only in a field trial are the conclusions published before discussing the facts and claims".

It said Blue and White was "disappointed" by Netanyahu's conduct in the 24 hours since Gantz was tasked with forming the government.

A security hawk, he is determined - like Netanyahu - to keep the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank under Israeli control and to maintain Israeli sovereignty over annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

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Another option would be to form a minority government with Avigdor Lieberman, who emerged as kingmaker after his party won eight seats and has refused to endorse either Gantz or Netanyahu.

Both the Likud and Blue and White say they want a big-tent coalition, but they are divided on how to achieve it.

Gantz now has 28 days to form a governing coalition, though his path to doing so remains unclear.

President Reuven Rivlin formally granted the mandate to Gantz late Wednesday, giving him 28 days to form a government.

A secularist, he's not keen to include ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties - who are some of Netanyahu's traditional allies - in his administration.

Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party.

Gantz also agreed to meet MKs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, the co-chairmen of the Joint Arab List. A leader has never before been elected during that time period in Israel. Failure could lead to Israel's third ballot within a year after inconclusive elections in April and September.