In Israel, Gantz says he would serve under Netanyahu
|Toronto Star 26 Mar 2020 at 18:09|
JERUSALEM—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was set to hold onto power after his chief rival, Benny Gantz, reversed himself Thursday and signalled that he would be open to serving in a Netanyahu-led government.
Gantz, a former Israeli army chief who had vowed to bring Netanyahu’s long rule to an end and fought him to a draw in three elections, said he was changing course to help bring the country together to fight the coronavirus pandemic .
“These are unusual times, and they call for unusual decisions,” Gantz said in a speech to Parliament on Thursday.
The move was a 180-degree reversal for Gantz and broke countless campaign promises. Netanyahu has been indicted on criminal corruption charges, and Gantz had vowed not to serve in a government led by a prime minister under indictment.
For Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, it was only the freshest evidence of why many Israelis consider him a political genius who, despite the obstacles, can never be counted out.
Gantz said that he would “explore the formation of a national emergency government” because of the coronavirus, which has claimed eight lives in Israel, infected thousands and devastated the country’s economy.
His decision immediately led to the breakup of his centrist Blue and White party.
Some analysts said that he may also have doomed his own political future as a credible alternative to Netanyahu, but others said a unity government would offer Gantz his best chance at taking over as prime minister at some point in the future.
In an interim move, Gantz nominated himself for the position of Parliament Speaker — acquiescing to a demand by Netanyahu not to put forward an ally whom Netanyahu found objectionable — and was voted into that position Thursday evening.
Netanyahu had been urging Gantz to join forces with him to fight the coronavirus crisis after the most recent election, on March 2, left neither of them in a position to form a majority government.
Gantz is expected to serve as Speaker for a short time, possibly only for a few days, before taking on a senior ministerial role in a unity government.