JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his planned trip to the United Nations General Assembly meeting next week following Israeli elections.
As the vote-counting continues, Netanyahu is slightly behind. But that isn’t stopping him from pushing ahead in trying to form a national unity government.
Netanyahu is calling on Benny Gantz and his Blue and White party to join him in forming a national unity government.
“Benny, it’s on us to form a broad unity government. Today. The nation expects us, both of us, to accept responsibility and work together,” Netanyahu said in a video message.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted that the Israeli public had spoken in the elections.
“The citizens of Israel have spoken. They came out to vote. Now the responsibility for forming a government that serves the people with the dedication it deserves, falls on our elected officials, and especially the heads of the two major parties,” Rivlin said.
The citizens of Israel have spoken. They came out to vote. Now the responsibility for forming a government that serves the people with the dedication it deserves, falls on our elected officials, and especially the heads of the two major parties. 3/3
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) September 19, 2019
Netanyahu said he had met with the other rightwing parties and they would negotiate as a bloc of seats.
“We cannot go to third elections, there's no reason to – I oppose it,” he said.
With more than 97 percent of the votes counted, Gantz’s Blue and White party is ahead with 33 seats to Netanyahu’s Likud at 31.
But 12 potential seats on the left are held by the Joint List, comprised of a number of Arab parties. They have never been in the government and aren’t likely to join this time either.
Dr. Emanuel Navon, from the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said on the security front there won’t be too many changes between a unity government and the current government of Netanyahu but on other issues there will be a change.
“So if there is a coalition between Blue and White and Likud, and Liberman (Israel Beiteinu), of course, you will see major policy differences on issues of state and religion, or (the) issue of drafting the ultra-Orthodox (Jews) to the (army), but you will not see major policy differences on Iran, or on the Gaza (Strip), or on the security situation in general,” Navon said.
The election results will be finalized in the next few days. Then the official process of forming the government will take place. That could be a tough challenge, as security issues from Iran to Gaza could take center stage.