Israel’s Arab Lawmakers Reject Netanyahu, Back His Rival For Prime Minister
Israel’s inconclusive election has left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in limbo, and his worst nightmare is now becoming a reality.
While there was no clear winner in Israel’s general election; the latest development in the country left no doubt that Netanyahu’s days as Prime Minister are over.
According to The New York Times, the Arab bloc in Israel’s parliament broke with tradition and recommended Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz for prime minister on Sunday, paving the way for the centrist party to get the first chance to assemble a coalition instead of incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party.
The historic endorsement highlighted the first day of President Reuven Rivlin’s crucial consultations with party leaders in Israel. Israel’s president has been meeting with all the parliamentary factions before choosing his candidate for prime minister, the person he’d think would be most likely to form a coalition successfully, after a deadlocked repeat election made forming any new government a daunting task.
During last week’s unpreceded second election in a year, neither of the top candidates appeared to secure the support of a majority of 61 members of the 120-seat parliament, with Gantz’s party winning 33 seats and Netanyahu’s securing 31 seats. Neither could assemble a parliamentary majority with its traditional smaller allies.
The decision of the Joint List on Sunday to endorse Gantz marked the first time Arab parties have endorsed a mainstream Zionist politician since 1992, when they recommended Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin, who campaigned on peace with the Palestinians, according to The Times of Israel.
“We have seen the most difficult election since 1948 in terms of the incitement against Israel’s Arab citizens,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh reportedly told Rivlin when he declared his party’s recommendation. “We have been turned into a group that is not legitimate in Israeli politics. If we are being pushed out, we will take our rightful place. For us, the most important thing is to remove Benjamin Netanyahu from power.”
He added, “So we will recommend Benny Gantz to form the next government.”
Maverick politician Avigdor Liberman, the head of the mid-sized Yisrael Beitenu party, is considered the key power broker, with the eight seats his party captured. Last week’s elections took place because Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition without Liberman’s support after the election five months earlier.
The former Netanyahu ally-turned-rival refrained from endorsing either candidate during his party’s consultations with the Israeli president on Sunday, so with the support from the Arab parties, Gantz anticipated he’ll have 57 backers to Netanyahu’s 55.
However, later Sunday, Liberman tweeted in Hebrew that Gantz called him in the evening, requested that the two leaders meet and scheduled the meeting for Monday afternoon in Tel Aviv.
Senior Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi said Sunday that the results of Israel’s election marked a blow to President Trump, who had stood strong with the leader of more than a decade.
“The result is a slap in the face not [just] of Netanyahu but also President Trump, who supports all the racism, all the atrocities and is preparing the most anti-Palestinian plan that has even been presented by the U.S.,” The Times of Israel reported Tibi said.
He added, “Mr. Trump, keep your deal.”
The Trump administration had said a Middle East peace plan would be released after the election.