Netanyahu Says Forming Unity Government of Utmost Importance Ahead of Gantz Meeting

Premier says military chief of staff's warnings of escalating security dangers in Middle East are not a mere stunt

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem October 27, 2019.
AFP

Establishing a broad unity government is of the utmost security and national importance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday ahead of a meeting with Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz, adding that warnings of senior army officials over the escalating security situation in the Middle East are not a mere political stunt. 

"We see what is happening in the Middle East. Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria are in turmoil, and Iran has control over all these areas. We know that the force we've been applying so far must intensify. It requires very hard decisions, and therefore it's important to establish a broad unity government," Netanyahu said in Sunday's government meeting, expressing hope that "we'll advance [the establishment of such a government] in the coming days.

The prime minister stressed that Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi's warnings over expected escalation in the region are not a political spin, rather a reflection of reality, and present and near future challenges.

Last week Kochavi said that the Israel's northern frontier requires many resources to prepare Israel for a possible war. "The situation is tense and fragile on Israel's northern and southern border, and might escalate despite the fact that our enemies are not interested in war," the chief of staff said.

According to intelligence assessments, the security situation in the Middle East is expected to become more and more challenging, especially against the background of U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out American troops from northeastern Syria, which is transforming the region into more volatile than it was in the past. Nevertheless, some view warnings over future escalation on Israel's northern border as exaggerated and meant to serve the demands of the defense establishment and the political echelon.  

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz was tasked Wednesday with forming the next governing coalition, after Netanyahu said on Monday that he failed to do so. Gantz now has 25 days to try to form a governing coalition.

Gantz is slated to meet with Netanyahu on Sunday, and is expected to meet with Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman on Monday. In addition, Kahol Lavan and Likud's negotiation teams will meet on Sunday, with Likud's team representing the entire right-wing bloc comprised of Hayamin Hehadash, National Union, and the ultra-orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.