Former Israeli Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz tapped to form a new government
By Aleya Justison And Ryan Kambich | Staff Writers
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his failure to form a government. After having 28 days to form a 61-seat majority, Netanyahu failed to persuade enough members of the Israeli Parliament, known as the Knesset, to join his center-right Likud party in a coalition government. As a result Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s selected former Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz to move forward with the government-formation process.
During last month’s election, around 30 different political parties fought for their portion of the 120-member Knesset. Ultimately, nine parties garnered enough votes for seats in the Knesset, the smallest of which holds five seats.
That election saw Israel’s two largest parties, the largely incumbent Likud Party (headed by Netanyahu) and the upand-coming Blue and White Party (headed by Gantz) pitted against one another for leadership of the Knesset. The two parties finished almost identically in the election, with the final vote resulting in a less than one percent lead for the Blue and White Party. However, neither party was able to secure a majority in the Knesset, prompting Rivlin to use his presidential power to select Netanyahu as the best candidate to form a new government coalition.
Netanyahu was then charged with the task of securing an agreement of members of the Knesset to join his coalition government and to secure the required 61-seat majority. Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history and was seeking his fourth term in office. Netanyahu had pleaded with Gantz in the past to join his coalition and form a unified government.
Gantz refused because of two outstanding corruption indictments against Netanyahu, with a third corruption case currently under investigation.
After the 28 days that Netanyahu was allotted to form a coalition, he announced that he had given up.
The formation of a new government is now charged to Rivlin, who selected Gantz to move forward with his own 28 day period to form a government.
This will be the first time Netanyahu has failed to win a majority in a decade. It comes at a time when Netanyahu is fending off multiple corruption investigations and moving his Likud Party to the hard right on multiple issues, such as Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Both of these changes may have made Netanyahu’s formerly successful party less appealing to centrist Israeli voters.
Gantz had previously served in Netanyahu’s government as the head of the Israeli Defense Forces, but broke with Netanyahu’s shift to the right and sought to present a more moderate alternative in recent elections.
In light of recent criminal charges against the prime minister, some believe faith in Netanyahu had been shaken, giving a new candidate an opportunity to supplant him.
“From the election ties alone, what I saw was a big power shift in some ways. What had made Netanyahu maintain the power he once had is starting to dwindle,” first-year political science and international business major Dale Hyde said.
Gantz’s centrist leaning has helped him win the support of parties on the left, including parties that have refused to join a coalition with Netanyahu. If he is able to form a coalition, he will become prime minister of Israel. If Gantz is unable and the Knesset votes against holding another election, Netanyahu will still have a chance to remain in power.