Benny Gantz declines Netanyahu invite into ‘broad unity government’

(JTA) — In the latest twist in Israel’s ongoing leadership struggle, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited his chief rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, to join him in a “broad unity government.”

Gantz declined.

In a video posted to Facebook on Thursday morning, Netanyahu said he presented Gantz with a compromise plan to establish a unity government. A statement from Netanyahu’s Likud party said the proposal calls for preserving a status quo on issues of religion and state for a year and presenting a “joint position” on President Donald Trump’s peace plan and the annexation of the Jordan Valley, The Times of Israel reported.

“This is the only government that is possible to form now and the only government that must be formed now,” Netanyahu said in the video.

A spokesperson for Blue and White said Gantz would not take the offer.

“Not unintentionally, the proposal brought by the outgoing Prime Minister fails to address the most important issue – that of maintaining the purity and rule of law,” the party said in a statement. “In recent weeks, Netanyahu has continued to oppose and to demonstrate disrespect toward law enforcement, the press and state agencies.”

Israelis remain without a government despite two elections in the past year. Blue and White narrowly won the most seats in the national election last month, but Netanyahu was tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a government since more seats were pledged to him by the right-wing bloc.

Blue and White called on Netanyahu to return the mandate to Rivlin and give Gantz the chance to form a government.

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