Benny Gantz, leader of Israel’s Blue and White Party, on Saturday asked the country’s president for a two-week extension as he tries to form a coalition government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief rival in three elections over the past year, was given the task by Israel’s president last month of forming a new government after winning the backing of a narrow majority of members of the newly elected parliament.
But in an abrupt about-face, Gantz later said he would seek to form an “emergency” government with Netanyahu’s Likud party to confront a growing coronavirus crisis. His decision caused his Blue and White alliance to disintegrate, leaving him at the helm of a diminished version of the party.
The emergency government is expected to leave Netanyahu in the prime minister’s post for a year and a half before the job rotates to Gantz. After initial signs of progress, talks between Gantz and Netanyahu hit a snag last week.
Gantz faces a Monday deadline for reaching a deal. He announced late Saturday that he would ask the country’s figurehead president, Reuven Rivlin, for a two-week extension.
“I believe that we are close to signing an agreement and that with additional time an agreement can be finalized,” he said.
Earlier, Netanyahu called for an immediate resumption of talks in an atmosphere of “goodwill.”
A failure to reach a deal could plunge the country into a fourth consecutive election in just over a year.
Rivlin did not immediately respond to Gantz’s request.
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