JERUSALEM (JTA) — Three hours before his mandate to form a coalition government was set to expire, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz had a message Monday for political rival Benjamin Netanyahu: Act like a leader and agree to an emergency unity government.
Gantz, making the challenge to the prime minister in a nationally televised address, said he took political risks to form the government for the good of the country while it was engulfed in the coronavirus crisis.
“The emergency situation forced me to accept upon myself to give up on my declaration that I would not sit in a government with Netanyahu,” Gantz said. His Blue and White coalition fell apart over the decision.
“The state of emergency imposed on the entire world and the State of Israel does not allow any leader to close his eyes and engage in his own ego,” Gantz said.
He noted that Netanyahu agreed last week to Blue and White’s coalition demands. But just ahead of Passover, Netanyahu reopened parts of the agreement dealing with judicial appointments.
On Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin said he would not grant Gantz a two-week extension, usually a formality, to form a government. Rivlin said he would return the mandate to the Knesset and give lawmakers a chance to rally around one of their colleagues. The decision could lead to a fourth election in about 18 months.
“Netanyahu, we have come to the moment of truth. The people of Israel expect us to put aside our differences and work together for them,” Gantz said. “History will not forgive us if we don’t get this done.”
In his address to the nation prior to Gantz, Netanyahu said he is making “large efforts” toward forming a unity government and hoped to reach a deal in the coming hours.