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October 23, 2019 4:36 pm

Blue and White Leader Gantz Receives Mandate to Try to Form Government After Netanyahu Fails: ‘I Will Serve All Israeli Citizens’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gives Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, the mandate to form a government during a ceremony at the president’s residence in Jerusalem, Oct. 23, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

Benny Gantz, the head of Israel’s centrist Blue and White party, received the mandate to try to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin in a ceremony in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

In his remarks at the event, Gantz — a former IDF chief of staff — said he would “establish a liberal unity government,” pledging to “serve all Israeli citizens.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the leader of the right-wing Likud party — received the mandate several weeks ago after the Sep. 17 elections ended in a deadlock, with neither the right-religious or center-left blocs commanding a majority. Netanyahu vowed to form a unity government with Gantz, but was unable to do so and returned the mandate to the president.

Wednesday marked the first time in over a decade that someone other than Netanyahu was given the mandate to attempt to form a government.

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Standing next to Rivlin, Gantz said, “I promised that I would establish a liberal unity government, and I intend to do so. In the government that I will establish, I will serve all Israeli citizens and act for the benefit of all Israeli citizens.”

He said Israel badly needed a functioning government and “a government that will strengthen Israel and prepare the IDF for any challenge, a government that will strive for peace and know how to defeat every enemy.”

Gantz also promised to work to heal the rifts in Israeli society through a “national reconciliation government” that would include everyone except those who see “racism as their inheritance and for whom violence is part of their way of acting.”

In an apparent reference to Netanyahu, Gantz said, “Anyone who sees only his personal good, who seeks to drag Israel into another election, will be expelled from the political system. Anyone who prefers to improve his personal situation in a disastrous election for the third time this year will disappear and become extinct on the political map. Israeli citizens will not forgive.”

In a nod to Netanyahu’s potential indictments on corruption charges, Gantz said, “I wish you to be exonerated,” but added, “It is clear to both of us that the results of the elections and the legal situation demand change.”

Gantz now has 28 days to form a governing coalition, though his path to doing so remains unclear.

The Israeli news site Mako reported that, after receiving the mandate, Gantz spoke with secular-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman, whose eight Knesset seats could well make him the kingmaker. The two men agreed to meet personally and their negotiation teams will also hold talks.

Gantz also reportedly spoke with Labor party chief  Amir Peretz, and a meeting will be set as soon as possible.

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