Israel’s weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited his main rival, Benny Gantz to join him in a broad coalition government just to remain in power— an abrupt change of strategy after failing to win a ruling majority in the election.
Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White Party, planned to make a statement at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT), a spokesman said.
Making the surprise offer, Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party and Israel’s longest-serving leader, said in a video clip that in the run-up to Tuesday’s election, he had pledged to form a right-wing government.
Mr Gantz’s party appeared to rebuff the prime minister’s proposal. He has previously ruled out joining a coalition led by Mr Netanyahu, who he calls a ‘criminal’ after Netanyahu faced possible corruption charges.
At a ceremony in Jerusalem on Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin welcomed the prime minister’s “important call”.
Mr Gantz’s Blue and White alliance was 0.78% ahead of Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party. The Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties, was in third place, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party in fourth, and the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party in fifth.
President Reuven Rivlin, who commands wide respect in Israel in his largely ceremonial position, said he welcomed Netanyahu’s unity call. Under Israeli law, Rivlin taps a party leader to try to form a government after the final vote tally is in.
The campaigns run by Netanyahu, 69, and Gantz, 60, pointed to only narrow differences on many important issues, and an end to the Netanyahu era would be unlikely to bring about significant changes in policy on relations with the United States, the regional struggle against Iran or the Palestinian conflict.
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