İrem UZUN -TDO- Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz has called for a unity coalition, vowing to form a government "within a few days" after President Reuven Rivlin officially appointed the leader to establish the next government amid a coronavirus pandemic. While Gantz called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join him in a unity administration, Monday's announcement was a sharp blow to Netanyahu, who had declared victory in the 2 March election.

Netanyahu's Likud party won more seats than Gantz's Blue and White in the general election, however Gantz was backed by a thin majority of lawmakers. The election on 2 March was Israel's third in less than a year. Neither of the main party leaders was able to command a majority following the last two rounds. This time, Likud won 36 seats, and allied right-wing and religious parties another 22. But that left Netanyahu three short of a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. Blue and White meanwhile won 33 seats; the Joint List representing Israel's Arab minority came third with 15 seats; the centre-left Labour-Gesher-Meretz list won seven; and the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party also got seven.

President Rivlin officially gave the Blue and White leader the mandate. Noting "the greatness of the challenges facing us", the president urged Gantz and "all elected officials" to move swiftly to form a government. "A fourth election is impossible at this time of crisis," he warned. Gantz has 28 days, with the option of a two-week extension, to build up a coalition government.

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