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Netanyahu urges rival Gantz to form unity government



Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs during the weekly cabinet meeting being held in the Jordan Valley, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. Netanyahu convened his final pre-election cabinet meeting in a part of the West Bank that he’s vowed to annex if re-elected. National elections are on Tuesday. (Amir Cohen/Pool via AP)

JERUSALEM, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Thursday on his main rival, former general Benny Gantz, to join him in a broad, governing coalition after Israel’s election ended with no clear winner.

A spokeswoman for Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, had no immediate response to the surprise offer from Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party.

The change of strategy reflected Netanyahu’s weakened position after he failed again in Tuesday’s election, which followed an inconclusive ballot in April, to secure a parliamentary majority.

“During the election campaign, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government but to my regret, the election results show that this is impossible,” Netanyahu said.

“Benny, we must set up a broad unity government, as soon as today. The nation expects us, both of us, to demonstrate responsibility and that we pursue cooperation.”

On Wednesday, Gantz said he hoped for a “good, desirable unity government”. But he has also ruled out forming one with a Netanyahu-led Likud, citing looming corruption charges against the prime minister. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.