Gantz Chosen To Form Government, Netanyahu Argues To Stay PM Over Coronavirus Effects Retired army general Benny Gantz was tapped after a majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member Parliament told President Reuven Rivlin they supported Gantz over Netanyahu.
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Gantz Chosen To Form Government, Netanyahu Argues To Stay PM Over Coronavirus Effects

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Gantz Chosen To Form Government, Netanyahu Argues To Stay PM Over Coronavirus Effects

Gantz Chosen To Form Government, Netanyahu Argues To Stay PM Over Coronavirus Effects

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/816107702/816344364" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Could Benjamin Netanyahu be on his way out as Israel's prime minister? His opponent Benny Gantz has now been chosen to try to form a new government, and he is vowing to do it within days. Netanyahu says he should continue to lead the country, to tackle Israel's emergency response to the coronavirus, which Gantz claims is sowing panic. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: The coronavirus has hit Israel at a moment of political instability. This month's elections ended in stalemate for the third time in a year. Benjamin Netanyahu has stayed on as caretaker prime minister and is leading Israel's response to the coronavirus. But he faces a setback. Israel's president is giving Netanyahu's rival, the centrist retired army General Benny Gantz, the first chance to try to form a new government.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: In a video on YouTube, President Reuven Rivlin explained the process to Israelis. As president, he picks the candidate with the best chance of building a governing coalition. On Sunday, a slim majority of 61 lawmakers out of the newly elected 120-member Parliament backed Gantz over Netanyahu, and the president has given Gantz several weeks to try to form a government. What helped tip the scales toward Gantz? In a historic move, a coalition of Arab parties unanimously supported him. A fifth of the Israeli population are Palestinian Arab citizens.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

ESTRIN: This video of Israelis protesting the Arab lawmakers Sunday was posted by Netanyahu on Facebook. He calls the Arab parties terrorist supporters. Gantz could build a government dependent on the support of Arab parties. His other option is to enter a partnership with his rival, Netanyahu, which up to now Gantz has refused to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: On TV, Netanyahu called for an emergency government to handle the coronavirus crisis, with him still in charge. But Gantz doesn't want to give a lifeline to Netanyahu, who faces corruption charges. The coronavirus, however, has offered Netanyahu some relief. His trial was scheduled to start tomorrow, but his hand-picked justice minister declared a state of emergency in the courts due to the virus, and judges postponed his trial.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF KODOMO'S "CONCEPT 15")

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