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Differences persist in Israel over who will lead the next govt

Blue and White party had vowed during its election campaign not to sit in government under Netanyahu

Monday October 28, 2019 12:12 PM, ummid.com with inputs from IANS

Israel Unity Government

[Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in a file photo. (@Gantzbe/Twitter)]

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, met on Sunday and discussed a possible unity government however they are divided over who should lead it.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting by Netanyahu's right-wing Likud and Gantz's centrist Blue and White, the parties said that the two leaders "had discussed existing political possibilities," the Xinhua news agency reported.

They agreed to meet again and to schedule more meetings of the negotiation teams of their parties. Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu called for "a broad national unity government," citing security issues.

"The Middle East is again in upheaval," Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting, according to a statement released by his office.

"We must make tough decisions that require a government with broad shoulders," he said, referring mainly to Israel's struggle against Iran's entrenchment in Syria.

Earlier on Sunday, teams of the two parties met for negotiations. A spokesperson with Blue and White said after the meeting that Netanyahu insists on including right-wing lawmakers from pro-settler and ultra-Orthodox parties, making it impossible to form a coalition.

Israel's political system has been paralyzed since the closely-fought election on September 17, in which Blue and White had won 33 seats in the 120-seat parliament against 32 of Netanyahu's Likud party. The Joint Arab List of Ayman Odeh had won 13 seats, becoming the third-largest party in the Knesset (Israeli parliament).

Blue and White party had vowed during its election campaign not to sit in government under Netanyahu, who is a suspect in at least three criminal corruption cases.

The elections were the second time Israelis cast their votes in five months. Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government following the April election, which led to the second election in September.

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