JERUSALEM (JTA) — As the Israeli Knesset remains mired in crisis about holding a vote to replace its speaker, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again called on rival Benny Gantz to join him in a unity government.
Gantz, who heads the Blue and White coalition, was tapped by President Reuven Rivlin to form a new government in the aftermath of elections earlier this month — the third round of balloting in less than a year. Sixty-one of the 120 lawmakers in the parliament recommended that Gantz have the first opportunity.
“Benny Gantz, this is a test for national leadership and responsibility,” Netanyahu said in a tweet. “Israeli citizens need a unity government to act to save their lives and livelihoods. This is not the time for a fourth election. We both know that the gaps between us are small and can be overcome. Let’s meet now and set up a government today. I’m waiting for you.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of the Likud party headed by Netanyahu, has said he will defy a Supreme Court order to hold a vote on his replacement by Wednesday. Gantz wants to replace Edelstein with a speaker from his center-left bloc, and presumably has the votes to make that happen.
Edelstein said he will schedule a vote “when the political situation becomes clear.” He refused to allow lawmakers to convene from Wednesday to Monday, saying he wanted to give Gantz and Netanyahu time to form a unity government.
Meanwhile, lawmakers on Monday formed the all-important Arrangements Committee, which handles the formation of the rest of the parliamentary committees, and went on to form six interim committees, including one to manage the coronavirus crisis.
The right-wing bloc led by Likud boycotted all the votes to form the committees, leaving them with a majority from the center-left bloc and led by members of those parties. That includes the Joint List of mostly Arab parties.