Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz claimed on Saturday that the "majority wants an end to Netanyahu’s rule," citing the results of Israel's Monday election, which gave parties opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 62 out of 120 Knesset seats.
Gantz vowed to form a government, despite disagreements between potential coalition partners. "I will do anything in my power to prevent a fourth election," he said. The latest election campaign "crushed all the norms that are common between a man and his friend and between a citizen and his leaders," added Gantz.
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Meanwhile, the Knesset's Chief Security Officer Yosef Griff announced he order the Knesset Guard to tighten security measures around Gantz, after multiple cases of incitement and threats against Kahol Lavan leader on social media.
Speaking earlier on Saturday, Netanyahu said that his rivals “are trying to steal the election,” which ended with no clear majority for either of the two biggest parties. Gantz and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman aren't willing to accept the ballot results, Netanyahu argued, stressing that his Likud party got three more seats than Kahol Lavan.
Speaking at an "emergency" rally in central Israel, Netanyahu added that he "could have gotten an even more decisive victory” with the backing of Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit, whose leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, offered to endorse Likud on condition that Netanyahu allows Jews to pray at the Temple Mount.
“That would have ignited the entire Middle East,” said Netanyahu.
He also commented on a bill, proposed by Kahol Lavan party members, to bar indicted officials from serving as prime minister, saying “It goes against the most basic principles of democracy.”
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The long-serving Israeli leader is scheduled to go on trial March 17 on charges of corruption, fraud, breach of trust. He is accused of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy friends and offering favors to powerful media moguls in exchange for positive press coverage. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and accused the media, police and prosecutors of conspiring to oust him.
Israeli law does not require the prime minister to resign if charged with a crime, and Netanyahu can use the powerful post to rally public support and lash out at what he says is an unfair legal system and hostile media.
Labor-Gesher-Meretz chairman Amir Peretz said in a statement following Netanyahu’s remarks that “any attempt to get a majority to form a government is legitimate. All votes, be they of Jewish or Arab citizens, are equal.” Peretz added that he supports “any effort to form a new government, one of change and hope, even if it’s a minority government.”
Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party said in a tweet Saturday that the prime minister “is hysterical, begging for his life… Even Netanyahu understands his time is over.”
Joint List MK and Balad Chairman Mtanes Shehadeh said Saturday following Gantz and Netenyahu's statements that "the arab community has spoken, they want a change in their position and aim for an end to discrimination and racism. Netanyahu would die to disqualify them but could not, and Gantz would have liked to ignore them but he couldn't."
Netanyahu vaguely accused his opposition on Friday of "trying to steal the election" by bringing forth a bill that prevents an indicted lawmaker from forming a government, which he called an "anti-democratic law."
The prime minister also blamed Kahol Lavan for "voter fraud," claiming that Gantz intended to violate his promise not to form a government that depends on the Joint List, which he said was made up of "supporters of terrorism and slanderers of IDF soldiers." In this context, Netanyahu said: "I have nothing against the Arab voters. We also received Arab votes and I am proud of it."
Likud said in its Friday morning statement that it was “getting odd and completely unacceptable excuses” for not yet receiving the material in full, adding the party intends to file a petition with the High Court of Justice to “ensure any errors in the vote count are corrected” before the election results are officially published.
The Kahol Lavan leader accused Netanyahu Friday of inciting violence, and warned that "if we do not wake up, the next political murder will be around the corner," in light of a suspected assult on an activist during a protest against the prime minister in Jerusalem.
Regarding the possibility of forming a government, Gantz stated earlier that "there are many options on the table, and all of them will be heard soon." He also said that Netanyahu ignored the results of the election and that he intended to "act to get Israel out of the mud and the circle of incitement that Netanyahu dragged us into."
Jack Khoury and the Associated Press contributed to this report.