Benny Gantz Picked to Form Israel’s Government After Netanyahu Fails

(Bloomberg) -- Benny Gantz, the biggest threat to Benjamin Netanyahu’s record-breaking rule, was assigned Wednesday night to form Israel’s next government and end the political paralysis that has gripped the country for nearly a year.

President Reuven Rivlin gave the former military chief and political centrist four weeks to piece together a governing coalition after Netanyahu failed to do so. But Gantz’s chance of mustering the support of a majority of parliament’s 120 members is slim, and the country is liable to see its third round of elections in less than a year.

“I promised to put in place a liberal unity government, and that’s what I intend to do,” Gantz said at a Jerusalem news conference. Later, he added, “If and when it’s demanded, I’ll make hard choices in the coming days.”

The political impasse has had wide-ranging implications, from delaying the rollout of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan to blocking progress on narrowing the budget deficit and revamping outdated infrastructure that has hobbled the economy.

Gantz’s centrist Blue and White bloc eked out a one-seat edge over Netanyahu’s Likud in Sept. 17 elections, but fell far short of winning a parliamentary majority. The prime minister was given the first shot at forming the government because he had the support of more lawmakers.

Since December

Israel was plunged into political limbo in December, when Netanyahu called for an early vote ahead of his possible indictment in three corruption cases. Gantz entered politics days later, promising to rid the country of Netanyahu’s brand of divisive politics and the whiff of graft tainting the highest office in the land.

While a political novice, Gantz’s clean-hands image and military experience proved to be formidable electoral assets, and Blue and White ran neck-and-neck with Likud in both the April and September votes.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, had seemed on his way to another term after the April elections until his former defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, broadsided him by refusing to join his coalition. Rather than give Gantz or anyone else a chance to become prime minister, Netanyahu engineered the dissolution of parliament and the September revote.

A poll released Tuesday night showed a third election producing the same kind of deadlock that the first two votes yielded.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.