ISRAEL: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on his main challenger Benny Gantz on Thursday to form a unity government together as election results showed both without an obvious path to a majority coalition.
Netanyahu, in a video message, said he preferred to form a right-wing coalition, but the results showed it was not possible.
The admission was a major development following Israel’s general election on Tuesday that has put Netanyahu’s status as the country’s longest-serving prime minister at risk.
“During the elections, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government,” Netanyahu said.
“But unfortunately the election results show that this is not possible.” He went on to call on Gantz to form a “broad unity government today.” Gantz had not yet responded, but he has repeatedly called for a unity government.
It is unclear however if he would accept such a government with Netanyahu, who faces possible corruption charges in the weeks ahead, remaining as Prime Minister.
Lieberman declined to join Netanyahu’s coalition after an election earlier this year, complaining about the prime minister’s reliance on religious parties to stay in power and prompting Netanyahu to call for a second vote.
The gambit appeared to have backfired for Mr. Netanyahu and to have rewarded Mr. Lieberman, who is now Israel’s kingmaker. President Reuven Rivlin will decide in the next few days whether Mr. Gantz or Netanyahu will get the first chance to form a coalition, after talking to Lieberman and leaders of other parties.
Netanyahu’s central role in Israeli politics isn’t over. His reputation for outmaneuvering political opponents and preserving his hold on power as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister earned him the nickname “the magician.”
For now, Likud officials say they are sticking with Mr. Netanyahu, giving him a large political base of support. Likud has pressured Mr. Gantz and his Blue and White party to form a unity government with Netanyahu as the head of the party.