Israeli rivals hold unity government talks to tackle coronavirus

Benny Gantz (left) and Benjamin NetanyahuImage copyright

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Both Benny Gantz (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to continue talks later on Monday

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has met the leaders of two rival political parties to try to form a unity cabinet to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

No deal was reached, but PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads Likud, and Benny Gantz of the Blue and White bloc, said the talks would continue on Monday.

The crisis meeting follows Israel’s third inconclusive elections in a year.

Last week, Israel said everyone arriving in the country must self-quarantine for 14 days.

Israel has recorded 200 confirmed cases of Covid-19, but no deaths.

What happened at the talks?

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gantz were invited on Sunday evening to the president’s office for “an urgent conversation” – but the talks ended without a breakthrough.

However, both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gantz pledged to resume the talks on Monday, a move welcomed by the president.

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All arrivals in Israel will have to self-quarantine

Before the talks, Mr Gantz had been expected to be asked to form a new government, after he appeared to have secured the support of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member parliament (Knesset).

But now a compromise option is also being discussed. It envisages that a unity government would be led in turn by Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gantz, Israeli media report.

President Rivlin has until Tuesday to decide whom to ask to form a new cabinet.

Much of Israel has been brought to a standstill, as the country tries to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

What’s the background to this?

The 2 March elections failed to break the political deadlock that has paralysed Israeli politics, triggering weeks of political horse-trading.

Mr Netanyahu, 70, is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. He is seeking a record fifth term, having been in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009.

During the election campaign he presented himself as the only candidate who could guarantee the country’s security, despite facing a trial on corruption charges that he denies.

The trial – that was due to start on Monday – has been postponed for at least two months because of the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Gantz is a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)

The 60-year-old politician has previously refused to be part of any coalition government led by someone facing criminal charges.

BBC News

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