Netanyahu vs Benny Gantz: Israel’s unprecedented political mess

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has cleared the way for Benny Gantz to take a shot at forming the govt. Gantz has 28 days to try- failing which, Israel would fall into an unprecedented third election

Netanyahu vs Benny Gantz: Israel’s unprecedented political mess
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NH Web Desk

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday gave his attempt to form a government and has cleared the way for his chief rival to take a shot at it but has left a divided country unaware of its next leader.

President Reuven Rivlin said Benny Gantz would get that opportunity on the account of having one vote more than Netanyahu, saying he should try leading the country now, reports The New York Times.

But Benny Gantz is a novice in politics who has benefited from a narrative of the corruption cases against Netanyahu. He, as a layman, may have no understanding of how to assemble the required 61-seat majority in Israel’s Parliament.

Gantz has 28 days to try- failing which, Israel would fall into an unprecedented third election, a prospect few Israelis would be happy about. Gantz would not find it easy to achieve the mandate Netanyahu had. He needs defectors from the political right, perhaps from within Netanyahu’s Likud party, or he will have to persuade Avigdor Liberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party to join him or to do what seems unlikely: collaborate with Arab politicians.

Netanyahu, who remains prime minister until a new government is formed, is counting on Gantz to fail, forcing a new election, reports The New York Times.

An Israeli candidate Tzipi Livni, the then foreign minister also had an opportunity to form the government in 2009, when she had a narrow edge over Netanyahu in the election. But she was unsuccessful in gathering the required 61 seats and Netanyahu once again became the prime minister.

Gantz, a centre-left politician, currently in his first time in candidacy, tied with Netanyahu in their first contest in April. But Netanyahu had more support in the Parliament and had the chance to form a government. He appeared well on his way to a fourth consecutive term only to be hindered by a shocker that was the defection by Avigdor Liberman.

Rather than let Gantz be given an opportunity, Netanyahu gave a run to the second election which was held on September 17.

Gantz got one more vote than Netanyahu in that election, but Netanyahu’s coalition of right-wing and ultra-religious parties again had a larger bloc in the Parliament than Gantz’s coalition of centre-left parties. Once more, Netanyahu was offered the first effort at making a government, reports The New York Times.

Netanyahu decided not to object to a proposal given forth by Rivlin under which Netanyahu would be the prime minister, but if proven guilty, would state that he is undermined while he sorted out his legal problems. Then Gantz would serve as acting prime minister with full powers.

Such an arrangement left many questions, including at what point Netanyahu would step aside, and would have required legal changes that could be challenged in court. Last week, Gantz requested and was granted, a meeting with the military chief of staff to update himself on security developments in the region.

But Netanyahu has still not given up, it seems. “It is still not too late,” he declared in a video, reports The New York Times. “It would still be possible to form a unity government if Gantz comes to his senses,” he said in the video.

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