Rivlin tells Netanyahu, Gantz to be ‘responsible,’ unite amid pandemic crisis

Israel’s president appeals to prime minister and opposition leader to bury the hatchet on political fighting and share leadership to fight coronavirus pandemic while ‘we are burying our dead’.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin addressed the nation Wednesday evening, admonishing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz to end their infighting and unite as the country faces an unprecedented health and economic crisis from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I appeal to you from here, leaders of the main parties, to find a way to present a shared leadership, a responsible leadership, for Israeli society in its time of crisis,” Rivlin said.

The former member of Knesset for the Likud Party who served as under Netanyahu as a cabinet minister spoke calmly but firmly, chastising both sides for feuding and jockeying for power in the parliament while the pandemic paralyzed Israel’s economy and threatened to overwhelm the health care system

“Each side must understand the other’s red lines and to be flexible on them, on the understanding that we have – we simply do not have – an alternative. Join together for the good of the Israeli people.”

“If not now, when,” Rivlin asked, quoting from the Jewish sage Hillel. The president has brokered several meetings between the two leaders, urging them to form a government of national unity to confront the epidemic.

Rivlin, who serves as titular head of state and holds no political power, is popular with the public and is known for his strong views on democracy and the rule of law. He called on political adversaries to bury the hatchet and focus on the exponentially growing crisis “at a time when here, in the State of Israel, we are burying our dead simply, holding weddings with no guests, closing seminaries, synagogues, schools and universities; in these moments of crisis, we must also learn to obey.”

“Have at the forefront of your minds the terrible disease that is assaulting us and is claiming the lives of our loved ones, that is grievously damaging Israel’s economy and the homes of so many who are battling to survive financially,” he pleaded.

Netanyahu has been leading an interim government for more than a year as a result of three consecutive national elections that left no clear winner. His right-wing coalition could only muster 58 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. After 61 Knesset members told Rivlin they supported him giving the task of forming a government to Gantz, the two sides have been at loggerheads fighting for power while the epidemic continues to spread in Israel.