Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz has convened Thursday the senior members of his party in order to decide whether they should accept Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal for a national unity government meant to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus in Israel, as the number of diagnosed cases rose to 109.
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The two leaders are both claiming to be able to form a government amid a tight electoral race that has seen Israelis head to the polls three times in less than a year. They talked on Thursday night, a statement from Benny Gantz said, and the Kahol Lavan leader proposed that negotiating teams from both parties meet immediately.
Earlier on Thursday, as he announced new health measures to the public, Netanyahu called to form an emergency administration "without hesitations" for a limited time, adding that "together we will save tens of thousands of citizens."
Netanyahu said politics must be set aside and that "we will handle the crisis together out of mutual trust."
The premier has since said in a statement that he personally invited Gantz for talks, and has notified President Reuven Rivlin on the matter.
In a conversation Thursday night, President Rivlin thanked Gantz for his willingness to help form a broad emergency government and Gantz reiterated that his party will continue to act responsibly and will back any move which will help fight the pandemic.
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Earlier in the night, Gantz said that Kahol Lavan under his leadership "has supported and will continue to support the joint fight against the spread of coronavirus. As we have done so far, we will continue to act with statehood and responsibility for the public. In light of the situation, we would be willing to discuss establishing a national emergency government that would include representation of all parts of the house. Every effort is made to promote this move for the citizens of Israel and the State of Israel."
This would include the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, a move that will likely anger Netanyahu supporters. The Likud leader worked really hard on the campaign trail to convince his electorate that a vote for Gantz was a vote for the Joint List, which he had regularly called "terror supporters."
Rivlin welcomed the initiative, adding that "we must do everything in order to focus on the tasks at hand."
Kahol Lavan officials believe that the dramatic exacerbation of COVID-19 would make it difficult for Gantz to gain legitimacy to promote small political moves, such as the impeachment of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein or the promotion of secular legislation.
A Kahol Lavan member who has so far opposed cooperation with Netanyahu told Haaretz, "It seems the establishment of a joint emergency government will not be avoided … It will be under very clear conditions. We will demand a complete freeze on a series of controversial proposals that Likud has sought to advance in the recent period."
Kahol Lavan MK Yoaz Hendel called on his colleagues via Twitter to form a unity government with Likud in light of the coronavirus crisis, to which Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett showed support for.