In Israel Benny Gantz, leader of the social-liberal blue-and-white alliance, has been surprisingly elected President of Parliament. In the past three elections, he has been the main challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is accused of corruption. After the last election, President Reuven Rivlin asked him to form a government.
74 members of parliament voted for Gantz as President of the Parliament KnessetAs the country’s parliament is called, 18 voted against Gantz. He received many votes from the camp of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, which could indicate a possible agreement between the two rivals.
In his inaugural speech, Gantz called for the formation of a unified government. Netanyahu had previously requested one. “These are unusual times and they call for unusual decisions,” said Gantz, referring to the coronavirus pandemic that has hit more than 2,000 people in Israel to date. “That’s why I want to explore the possibilities for the formation of a unified government.”
Such a government would end the political crisis in Israel that has been going on for more than a year. There had been three general elections in the country within a year, none of which resulted in a clear winner. Since then, Netanyahu has been in charge.
Exchange of offices after one and a half years?
The office of Parliament President had only become vacant on Wednesday due to the surprising resignation of the previous incumbent, July Edelstein. Edelstein is a member of Netanyahu’s party and a confidant of the controversial head of government. Initially, it was expected that Gantz would nominate a candidate to succeed Edelstein.
Instead, he ran for the post himself; there were no other candidates. Edelstein had previously announced that the Knesset would be closed for several days, which triggered violent protests. Critics accused him of abusing his post in the Netanyahu sense.
According to Israeli channel 12 TV, Gantz and Netanyahu agreed on a coalition led by Netanyahu as prime minister. Gantz should become foreign minister. In September 2021, the two should therefore exchange the items. Gantz’s alliance did not comment on the report, and Netanyahu’s party described the scenario described as rumor.
A rotation of the two rivals had previously been discussed by Netanyahu himself. He repeatedly asked Gantz to join an emergency government in view of the Corona crisis, in which the head of government could later be exchanged. In the elections last year, Gantz had shown himself open to a large coalition led by Likud, but made the condition that Netanyahu, who was accused of corruption, would not remain prime minister. The trial of the prime minister should have started in March, but was postponed due to the corona virus.
Criticism of Netanyahu’s approach to the corona crisis
Because of the worsening Corona crisis, Netanyahu faces some criticism. The historian and best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari accused him of establishing the “first coronavirus dictatorship”. In Israel, “emergency decrees were issued by someone who has no mandate from the people.”
Amir Fuchs from the Israeli Democracy Institute said the government is using the corona crisis to bypass parliament. Netanyahu’s frequent appeals to the people at prime time are self-promotion. He does not believe in a dictatorship. “But we have to be careful, because democracy is undermined in emergency situations.”
Netanyahu had imposed strict measures in response to the pandemic, but is said to have received little advice from experts or the health ministry. According to media reports, Israelis are only allowed to move within a radius of 100 meters around their home, except in exceptional cases, and the army is to support the police in enforcing the exit restrictions. Many people lost their income due to the restrictions.