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Gantz says he should be PM in Israel unity government

PM Netanyahu and rival Gantz attend a memorial together two day after the election [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 19 September, 2019

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Benny Gantz responded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's calls for a unity government by saying he should lead the next government.

Benny Gantz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main opponent in the country's general election, said Thursday he should be prime minister in a broad unity government.

Gantz spoke to journalists after Netanyahu called for them to join together in a unity government as results from Tuesday's vote showed neither with an obvious path to form a majority coalition. 

Gantz's centrist Blue and White is nevertheless two seats ahead of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, according to results so far published by Israeli media.

The ex-military chief said his alliance had the most seats and he should lead the next government.

"In order to form a unity government, one can't come with political blocs and spins," Gantz said. 

"After an election that was forced on Israel, [Israel] voted and made a clear choice. The people voted for unity and Kahol Lavan won the election. It's the biggest party," Gantz added.

He went on to say that "we will listen to everyone, but we will not accept mandates imposed on us."

Netanyahu and Gantz shook hands at a memorial ceremony for late Israeli president Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on Thursday.

In a video message released earier in the day, Netanyahu said he preferred to form a right-wing coalition, but the results showed it was not possible.

He went on to call on Gantz to form a "broad unity government today" and proposed they meet today "at any hour".

It now seems however that Gantz will not accept such a government with Netanyahu, who faces possible corruption charges in the weeks ahead, remaining as prime minister.

The premier has made a deal with right wing parties not to negotiate separately. The right-wing bloc will endorse Netanyahu as their candidate for prime minister. 

Read also: Netanyahu crony says controversial camera bill backfired on election day

The mainly Arab Joint List alliance is set to become the third-largest force in parliament behind Netanyahu's Likud and Gantz's Blue and White with a projected 13 seats.

That could put the Palestinian-Israeli parties in position to block Netanyahu from continuing as prime minister if they decide to break with precedent and endorse Gantz for the job.

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