Will ‘The Prince’ dethrone ‘King Bibi’? Israel’s ex-military chief aims at premiership

Will ‘The Prince’ dethrone ‘King Bibi’? Israel’s ex-military chief aims at premiership
By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Confronted by a right-wing heckler while campaigning for last month’s parliamentary election in Israel, Benny Gantz grabbed the man by the lapels and glared down at him.

“No one’s doing anything wrong by you,” Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White Party, told him. “We only want what’s good for you.”

The encounter was part embrace, part menace, and highly ambiguous. So is much else about Gantz, who will try to form a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to abandon his own attempts to put together a new coalition.[

President Reuven Rivlin turned to Netanyahu first after the Sept. 17 election, in which no party won a majority. Gantz, was next in line after Blue and White won 33 seats in parliament, one more than Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud.

The 60-year-old general, nicknamed “The Prince” as he rose through army ranks, now has the chance to dethrone Netanyahu, who is sometimes referred to as “King Bibi” after dominating Israeli politics for more than a decade as prime minister.

As chief of the Israeli military between 2011 and 2015, Gantz was a consensus figure. He has tried to retain his broad appeal as head of Blue and White, a newly formed party named after the national colors.

But what he would do in power is not completely clear as he had avoided committing himself on some important issues.

Gantz casts himself as more diplomatically accommodating than Netanyahu, urging redoubled efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, but has stopped short of any commitment to the statehood they seek.

Supporters see Gantz’s reticence as an attempt to calm the political scene after two elections this year – Netanyahu also failed to form a government after an April ballot. They say Gantz would rather keep his own counsel than sap his credibility with promises that voters know will never be delivered.

As top general, Gantz orchestrated two Gaza wars in which around 2,300 Palestinians were killed.

“We don’t differentiate between either Gantz or Netanyahu,” said Moussa Abu Mazouk of Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamists.

The more moderate Palestinian Authority has said it is open to talking to any Israeli leader. But Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, also said before the September election that Gantz was no different from Netanyahu.QUESTIONS OF CHARACTER

 

Gantz, who is 6 foot 3 inches (1.91 meters) tall, was brought up on a collective farm founded by Holocaust survivors including his parents, and had a stint in a religious school. He is married to an ex-paratrooper with whom he has four children.

Throughout the election he attacked Netanyahu over corruption allegations that have dogged the prime minister for years, and which the veteran leader denies.

Netanyahu’s counter-charge that a suspected Iranian hack of Gantz’s cellphone may have opened him up to blackmail by Israel’s enemy did not appear to dent the challenger’s image.

A more earthy orator than Netanyahu, he makes occasional scriptural word play and is given to reminding listeners of his military background. When his party won more seats than Netanyahu, he spoke of having fulfilled his “mission” and of his rival having failed in his.

Netanyahu has cast Gantz as a “weak leftist” who was gun-shy on Iran and the Palestinians while in uniform.

It was, however, Netanyahu who appointed Gantz as Israel’s top general and, at the time, praised him as “an officer and a gentleman … a warrior and a human being”.

As a brigadier-general in 1999, Gantz took over a liaison unit to Lebanese allies. By the following year, when Israel withdrew from south Lebanon, Gantz was a media darling.

He went on to serve a relatively short period in the West Bank, where a Palestinian revolt raged. Gantz later commanded forces on the Lebanese border but was reassigned before the inconclusive 2006 war with Hezbollah, so was spared much of the after-action blowback from an Israeli inquest.

How he won the nickname “The Prince” is unclear. Some say it stemmed from his assured rise through the ranks, others from what critics call his sense of entitlement.

Gantz has dismissed suggestions he lacks the stomach to fight. Referring to a Hamas military commander whom he ordered assassinated in 2012, he said in January: “The heads of the terrorist groups need to know that Ahmed Jaabari was not the first, nor may he be the last.”

Retired U.S. general Martin Dempsey, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between 2011 and 2015 was Gantz’s counterpart, recalled him as a “superb leader” in that role.

Gantz has made no secret of learning on the job, and is leaning on his partners in the Blue and White leadership, who include two other former military chiefs of staff, a former defense minister and a former finance minister.

(Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Mystery martyr’s church unearthed in the Holy Land

Mystery martyr’s church unearthed in the Holy Land
By Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Byzantine-era church built in honor of an unnamed martyr has been unearthed near Jerusalem after a three-year excavation, Israeli researchers said on Wednesday.

The dig uncovered floors decorated with vast mosaics depicting birds, fruit and plants, colorful frescoes, and a curious Greek inscription that has baffled the researchers.

“We found one inscription in the courtyard of the church which dedicates the site in the memory of a ‘glorious martyr,'” said Benyamin Storchan, who directed the excavation. “The martyr is unnamed and it’s still a mystery.”

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) dates the shrine, located about 10 miles west of Jerusalem, to the 6th century.

An underground crypt found below the main part of the church is believed to have housed the martyr’s remains. “This is the holiest place in the church,” said Storchan, adding that pilgrims likely frequented the site.

Though the martyr in question is unknown, Storchan said the lavishness of the complex may indicate this person was an important figure. Another inscription showed Byzantine emperor Tiberius II Constantinus had helped fund the church’s later expansion.

“We know of a few hundred churches in the Holy Land but this church by far surpasses most of them by its state of preservation and the imperial involvement which funded it,” said Storchan.

(Reporting by Ronen Zvulun; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by David Holmes)

Israel’s Netanyahu down but not out after failing to form government

Israel’s Netanyahu down but not out after failing to form government
By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – For the first time in a decade, someone other than Benjamin Netanyahu will be asked to form a government in Israel.

The 70-year-old prime minister has called two elections this year, has twice been given the chance by the president to put together a ruling coalition, and has twice failed.

President Reuven Rivlin will on Wednesday turn to Netanyahu’s centrist rival Benny Gantz, leaving Netanyahu even more vulnerable in his fight for political survival.

But although he has failed, Gantz – a former general and political novice – also has no clear path to success.

Here are some of the possible scenarios, including even a third parliamentary election in less than a year, after two inconclusive elections in April and September.

WHY IS ISRAELI POLITICS IN DEADLOCK?

Shortly after the Sept. 17 election ended in stalemate, Rivlin gave Netanyahu 28 days to put together a governing coalition.

During that period, which expires on Wednesday, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister persuaded only 55 of parliament’s 120 members, including his traditional far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, to join his right-wing Likud Party in a government.

Having fallen six seats short of a ruling majority, Netanyahu “returned” his mandate to the president, and a spokesman for Rivlin said Gantz would now get his chance.

One way out of the stalemate would be for the two largest parties, Likud and Gantz’s new Blue and White party, to form a “national unity” government.

Early talks centered on the possibility of a rotating premiership but led nowhere. Gantz, a former armed forces chief, refused to join a government led by Netanyahu, citing looming indictments against the prime minister in three corruption cases in which Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

Gantz also said he wants a “liberal” government, shorthand for one that does not include Netanyahu’s religious partners.

HAS THIS HAPPENED BEFORE?

The last time anyone other than Netanyahu was asked to form a government in Israel was in 2008 when Tzipi Livni, of the now-defunct Kadima party, was given the chance and failed.

That led to an election in 2009 which was won by Netanyahu. Livni never returned to front-line politics, a precedent that is not lost on Netanyahu.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

After receiving the formal nomination from Rivlin on Wednesday, Gantz will have 28 days to build a coalition. As things stand now, he has the endorsement of 54 lawmakers, seven short of a parliamentary majority.

But 10 of the those 54 legislators belong to a four-party Arab alliance. No party drawn from Israel’s 21% Arab minority has ever been invited to join an Israeli government or has sought to serve in one.

Without a deal with Netanyahu, Gantz could seek to form a minority government, with Arab lawmakers’ backing from the sidelines. But that is a big political risk in a country where Arab citizens’ loyalty has been hotly debated.

Arab lawmakers would be likely to face criticism from within their own community for propping up an Israeli government’s policies towards what many regard as their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

AND IF GANTZ ALSO COMES UP SHORT?

A three-week period would ensue in which 61 lawmakers can ask the president to assign the coalition-building task to any legislator – Netanyahu, Gantz or another. If no such request is made in that time, parliament dissolves itself and an election is called – political pundits say March 17 is a possible date.

That could give Netanyahu another chance at the ballot box, barring a Likud rebellion against him.

WHAT ABOUT NETANYAHU’S LEGAL TROUBLES?

The deck could be reshuffled once Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announces whether he will follow through with his plan to indict Netanyahu in three graft investigations. His final decision is widely expected by the end of the year.

Netanyahu faces no legal requirement to leave government if indicted, but criminal charges against him – and their degree of severity – could further weaken him politically.

Netanyahu could face fraud and breach of trust charges in all three cases, and bribery charges in one.

ARE THERE ANY WILDCARDS?

Avigdor Lieberman, a former Netanyahu ally and ex-defense minister, heads the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu which won eight parliamentary seats in last month’s election. He has remained on the fence so far, citing policy differences with Likud’s ultra-Orthodox backers and Blue and White’s left-wing allies.

He effectively prevented Netanyahu from building a ruling coalition after this year’s first election, boosted his standing in the second and could be a kingmaker in the third.

(Editing by Timothy Heritage and Janet Lawrence)

Israel’s Netanyahu gives up effort to form new government

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the swearing-in ceremony of the 22nd Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

Israel’s Netanyahu gives up effort to form new government
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Benjamin Netanyahu gave up his effort to form a new government on Monday after failing to secure a majority coalition, creating an opportunity for centrist rival Benny Gantz to replace Israel’s longest serving prime minister.

Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, said he had been unable to form a government following an election in September, and was returning the mandate back to Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin said he intends to task Gantz with the job of putting together a new government.

“In the past weeks I made every effort to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table, every effort to establish a broad national government, every effort to avoid another election,” said Netanyahu, who turned 70 on Monday.

Gantz also has no clear path to a majority, and should he come up short, it would almost certainly lead to another general election, the third since April. He will have 28 days to entice potential allies.

Gantz’s Blue and White party said in a statement it was “determined to form a liberal unity government.”

Netanyahu, in power for the past decade and 13 years in total, has seen his political strength wane as he faces a looming indictment on corruption allegations he denies. Gantz, a former military chief, has pledged not to serve in a government under a premier facing criminal charges.

Likud placed second in the September ballot with 32 seats in the 120-member parliament, behind 33 for Blue and White.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Franklin Paul, Philippa Fletcher, Peter Graff and Cynthia Osterman)

Synagogue attack sparks fear among Jews in Germany

By Joseph Nasr

BERLIN (Reuters) – As Jews left Yom Kippur prayers across Germany on Wednesday, they were jolted by word that an anti-Semitic gunman had attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle hours before, killing two people.

The news heightened fears of more anti-Semitic violence in a nation still scarred by the Holocaust and witnessing the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

“It’s very scary,” said Samuel Tsarfati, a 27-year-old stage director, as he left a Berlin synagogue with fellow French national Samuel Laufer.

The pair, who live and work in the German capital, had spent the holiest day in the Jewish calendar secluded in prayer and switched off their mobile phones for 25 hours of fasting.

Other members of Germany’s 200,000-strong Jewish community expressed similar alarm over the attack. After trying to blast into the Halle synogogue, a lone suspect killed a woman outside and a man in a nearby kebab shop.

“It’s not a coincidence it happened in east Germany. The far-right AfD is very strong there,” Tsarfati said. Leaders of the AfD, which made big gains in elections in two eastern states last month, condemned Wednesday’s attack in Halle.

Attacks on Jews rose by 20% last year and were mainly carried out by right-wing extremists. Even before the Halle shooting, a heavy police presence guarded the synagogue in the trendy suburb of Prenzlauer Berg where Tsarfati and Lauferis attended prayers.

Jews and German politicians have been particularly worried by comments by Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD leader of eastern Thuringia state, that the Holocaust memorial in Berlin is a “monument of shame” and that schools should highlight German suffering in World War Two.

“What happened today shows that the AfD should not be underestimated,” said Laufer. “AfD leaders like Hoecke don’t want to see that their words encourage some people to kill.”

Hoecke was among the AfD leaders to condemn the Halle attack.

The Halle gunman broadcast anti-Semitic comments before he opened fire. Several German media outlets said he acted alone although police have not confirmed this.

The far-right AfD entered the national parliament for the first time two years ago, riding a wave of anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome almost 1 million migrants. The party’s rise has alarmed Jewish leaders who condemn the party’s verbal attacks against Muslim migrants.

‘BLINDED BY HATRED’

Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Community in Munich, suggested that the AfD’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was contributing to an atmosphere of hate that encouraged political violence.

“This scary attack makes it clear how fast words can become acts of political extremism,” she said in a statement. “I’d be interested to know what that AfD has to say about such excesses, for which it had prepared the ground with its uncultured hate and incitement.”

At the gold-domed New Synagogue in Berlin’s city center about 200 people, including Muslim leaders, held a vigil, some carrying Israeli flags and others holding candles. Merkel visited the synagogue in the evening and took part in prayers.

Renate Keller, a 76-year-old attending the vigil with her husband, said the attack in Halle showed that Germany was not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.

“It scares me that after the Holocaust some people have learned nothing from our history, which still weighs on us today,” she said. “People like the attacker have probably never met a Jew in their lives. They are just blinded by hatred.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, warned of the incendiary potential far-right politics.

“It shows that right-wing extremism is not only some kind of political development, but that it is highly dangerous and exactly the kind of danger that we have always warned against.”

mtpi

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Portals to history and conflict: the gates of Jerusalem’s Old City

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Jews, Muslims and Christians pass daily through the gates of Jerusalem’s Old City, on their way to and from prayers or simply to go about their everyday business in one of the most politically sensitive spots on earth.

There are eight gates – seven are open and one is sealed – along the Old City walls that were built in the 16th century by Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

It’s always busy at Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Muslim quarter, and at Jaffa Gate, facing west toward the Mediterranean, where local residents and tourists mix in markets lining stone alleyways.

Lion’s Gate – two pairs of heraldic lions are carved on the archway – is also known as St. Stephen’s Gate. It faces east, toward ancient Jericho. It is often crowded with Muslim worshippers after prayers at al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine.

Many Jewish worshippers take another route to Judaism’s nearby Western Wall. They pass through the Dung Gate, the closest entrance to the holy place, and Jewish families on their way to celebrate a 13-year-old son’s Bar Mitzvah can be spotted making their way to the wall.

Security is always tight in a volatile area at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli police patrol and closed circuit TV cameras monitor the passageways of the Old City.

Israel views all of Jerusalem, including the walled Old City that it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as its “eternal and indivisible” capital.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, where the Old City is located, as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Netanyahu tries to avert indictment as he fights for political life

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his final attempt to fend off a corruption indictment on Wednesday when his lawyers argued against looming charges that have combined with election stalemate to threaten his long hold on power.

The pre-trial hearings, scheduled to be held over four days, will allow him to make his case against indictment to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit in three graft investigations.

A final decision by the attorney-general on whether to file charges is expected by the end of 2019.

Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, faces no legal requirement to leave government if indicted, as long as he remains prime minister.

But his aura of political invincibility has been clouded by his failure to win a clear victory in parliamentary elections in April and last month, after a decade in office as head of the right-wing Likud party.

“Today, we will present all the evidence that everyone knows and some new evidence,” Amit Hadad, one of Netanyahu’s attorneys, told reporters outside Mandelblit’s office. “We believe that all three cases will be dropped after the hearings.”

Mandelblit announced in February that he intends to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach and trust. Netanyahu has said he is the victim of a political witch-hunt spearheaded by left-wing opponents and journalists.

The investigations, dubbed Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000, have revolved around gifts of champagne and cigars that Netanyahu has acknowledged receiving from millionaire friends, purported attempts to influence media coverage and the alleged dispensing of regulatory favors.

Netanyahu has said he is the victim of a political witch-hunt spearheaded by left-wing opponents and journalists.

He is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to go through a pre-indictment hearing process.

Ehud Olmert, facing corruption allegations, quit as Israel’s leader in 2008 before such sessions could be held or any indictment filed. He was eventually charged and convicted of accepting bribes and served 16 months in jail before his release in 2017.

On Tuesday, talks to form a national unity government hit a further snag after Netanyahu’s centrist election rival, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party, called off a meeting with him scheduled for Wednesday.

With neither leader appearing able to put together a coalition with a ruling majority on his own, Israel’s president last week gave Netanyahu 28 days to try to form the next government in the hope of securing a power-sharing deal.

Gantz, however, has pledged not to serve in a government under a premier facing criminal charges.

(Editing by William Maclean)

Israeli minister urges unity government to stave off ‘blow-up’ in Iran tensions

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaks during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s energy minister on Friday warned tensions between Iran and the United States were reaching a breaking point and an Israeli unity government deal was needed to stave off the threat of conflict following an inconclusive election last week.

Washington has blamed Iran for a Sept. 14 attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, and on Thursday announced it would send radar systems and Patriot missiles to the kingdom to bolster its defenses. Iran denies carrying out the attack.

Yuval Steinitz, who is also a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, warned “we are on the verge of the Iran situation blowing up”.

“(The) chances of an American-Iranian or Saudi-Iranian blow-up, or a blow-up in the Gulf which, if it happens, is liable to reach us too, is something that is very, very tangible and realistic,” Steinitz told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM on Friday.

Steinitz, a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, said the potential for a wider conflict “is another reason for the need to hasten and form a broad unity government now, and not to be dragged into months of boycotts and discussions.”

On Wednesday, Netanyahu was tapped to try to form the next coalition government after garnering marginally more support from lawmakers than his centrist rival, Benny Gantz, in a Sept. 17 election.

Neither leader was able on his own to put together a coalition with a ruling majority or reach a power-sharing deal for a unity government between their two parties.

However, with little appetite among Israeli voters for a third trip to the polls in less than a year if no government emerges, public pressure could grow for Netanyahu and Gantz to compromise and join forces.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub and Dan Williams, Editing by William Maclean)

Netanyahu tapped by Israel’s president to assemble new government

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s president tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday with assembling a new government after power-sharing talks with his strongest rival, Benny Gantz, failed following an inconclusive election.

Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, and Israel’s longest-serving leader, still has no clear path to a fifth term after emerging from the Sept. 17 ballot, the second this year, short of a parliamentary majority.

“I have decided to give you, sir, the opportunity to assemble a government,” President Reuven Rivlin said to Netanyahu at a nomination ceremony.

He will have 28 days to form a coalition and can ask Rivlin for a two-week extension if necessary. Netanyahu’s failure to clinch victory in a ballot in April led to last week’s election and left him politically weakened.

In the new countdown, Likud has the pledged support of 55 legislators in the 120-member parliament, against 54 for Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party. The two parties failed to reach a coalition deal in talks launched on Tuesday.

Former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a possible kingmaker, has been keeping his far-right Yisrael Beitenu party on the fence since the Sept. 17 ballot, citing differences with both Likud’s and Blue and White’s political allies.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Explainer: “Only Bibi” no more – Israel’s Netanyahu seeks power-sharing deal

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – After failing to secure a clear election victory twice in six months, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister now seems to be calculating that he can stay in power only by sharing it.

Following a deadlocked parliamentary election last week, a weakened Netanyahu reissued an offer on Monday to his centrist rival Benny Gantz for a unity government, saying that neither had enough support from respective allies for a majority of 61 seats in the 120-member parliament.

There was no sign Gantz, head of the Blue and White Party, would agree to a coalition with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud. Gantz cited looming corruption charges against Netanyahu in saying no last week.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who will pick a candidate to try to build a coalition, has called for a unity government – but does not have the legal power to compel Gantz or Netanyahu to form one together.

Wrapping up two days of consultations with leaders of all parties that won parliamentary seats in the Sept 17 ballot, Rivlin summoned Netanyahu and Gantz to a closed-door meeting later on Monday, apparently to urge them to join forces.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

On paper, Netanyahu now has a slim lead over Gantz in building a parliamentary bloc, with pledges of support from 55 members of a right-wing grouping to 54 for Gantz from left-wing and Arab parties. But it also means that neither has secured a governing majority of at least 61 legislators.

Netanyahu’s slight edge might move Rivlin to ask him to try to build a narrow coalition if a unity government proves impossible. A nominee gets 28 days to do so, with a possible 14-day extension, before Rivlin can turn to someone else.

Gantz had appeared to have 57 backers but three of the Arab Joint List’s 13 members on Monday withdrew support they had pledged to him a day earlier.

Likud won 31 seats to Blue and White’s 33, near-complete results show.

Avigdor Lieberman, whose far-right Yisrael Beitenu party won eight seats, would remain the kingmaker if unity efforts fail. In his meeting with Rivlin, he refused to commit to either Netanyahu or Gantz, citing his own policy differences with Likud’s Jewish ultra-Orthodox allies and Blue and White’s Arab backers.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES FOR A UNITY GOVERNMENT?

It’s complicated, even though there are only narrow policy differences between Netanyahu and Gantz on many important issues, such as relations with the United States, the regional struggle against Iran and the Palestinian conflict.

Both men appear to be more deeply divided on the composition of a unity government.

Gantz has called for a “liberal” administration, political shorthand for one that does not include Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox partners. After the election, Netanyahu swiftly signed a new alliance with them.

And then there’s the question of who would get the top job: Netanyahu, Gantz, or both men – in rotation?

Left-winger Shimon Peres and right-winger Yitzhak Shamir set a historic example when they took turns as prime minister in a unity government from 1984 to 1988.

This time around, if a “rotating” power-sharing agreement is reached, it could be imperative for Netanyahu to serve as prime minister first.

Next month, Israel’s attorney-general will hold a pre-trial hearing at which Netanyahu can argue against his announced intention to indict the Israeli leader on fraud and bribery charges in three corruption cases.

As prime minister, Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing in the long-running investigations, would be under no legal obligation to resign if formal charges are filed. But any other cabinet post he might hold would not offer him that protection.

Netanyahu’s supporters in the legislature have also pledged to seek parliamentary immunity for him against prosecution. Any unity deal with Gantz would likely have to address that issue.

(Editing by Timothy Heritage)