Opposition leader Benny Gantz has been chosen as spokesman for the Israeli Parliament in a surprise move that suggested a political partnership that could keep Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power.
With the partial backing of Gantz's centrist Blue and White party and the support of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, Gantz was elected Thursday with 74 votes in the 120-member Knesset, with 18 members voting against the nomination.
It could pave the way for a "rotation deal,quot; in which Netanyahu and Gantz, a former military chief, would take turns as prime minister.
Talks to form a unity government were in progress between the two sides after an inconclusive election on March 2, Israel's third in less than a year, and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Previous discussions between the two sides have been broken as both leaders insisted on serving first as prime minister.
Government of emergency unit?
Netanyahu has proposed a "national emergency,quot; government with Gantz to help tackle the coronavirus crisis.
Israel's president pressured them to join forces, with the Israelis facing a possible national shutdown in a matter of days to try to reduce infection rates.
"Israel faces an increasing number of (coronavirus) infections and the number of victims is increasing daily," Gantz told the Knesset on Thursday, accepting the speaker's gavel.
Gantz said he intended to move towards a unity government, and that he had chosen to appear at the speaker's office to promote a deal.
"These are unusual times and require unusual decisions," said Gantz. "That is why I intend to explore the formation of an emergency unit government," he added.
Gantz had previously ruled out serving with Netanyahu, citing the prime minister's impending trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.