© Reuters/Amir Cohen
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz
Israel's President Reuven Rivlin has decided to task ex-chief of staff and Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival Benny Gantz with forming a government, that is after he receives the 61 seats needed to do so.

Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz will now have 28 days to succeed in completing a task that both he and Netanyahu have failed twice to accomplish - forming a coalition.

Speaking at a ceremony where he received the mandate from the president, Gantz vowed that he "would do everything in his power" to establish a broad government within days that "represents all Israel's citizens".

New Government? Not So Fast

But, as previous rounds have proven, that won't be easy. Gaining only 33 seats in the recent general polls, Gantz will need the support of other parties to reach the magic number of 61 that would give him the keys to become Israel's PM.

And that includes the seats of the Labour-Meretz bloc as well as Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu, who received six and seven seats respectively. Yet, that still won't be enough.

To succeed in the task, Gantz will also need the backing of the Joint Arab List, a coalition of four Arab parties, who secured an unprecedented 15 seats becoming Israel's third largest faction - support they are willing to give under certain conditions that include the promotion of equality between Jews and Arabs and a change of policy towards Palestinians.

Dancing with the Enemy?

However, for many Israelis these demands are unacceptable because a coalition based on the support of Arab parties is considered a red line. Many have even taken to social media platforms to vent their anger. One Twitter user wrote:
"It's a done deal. Gantz will become Israel's prime minister...supported by those who glorify the murderers of Israelis. I am ashamed of our people. It is the worst timing for the establishment of such a government but he doesn't care... I feel that there are masses of people here who hate Netanyahu more than they love Israel".
The Joint Arab List has a complicated relationship with Israel's Jewish population. While some 20,000 Israelis voted for them in the recent elections, many others find it difficult to relate to their agenda, which is very often critical of Israel.

In 2008, for example, long before the four parties merged into a unified list, Ayman Oudeh, the leader of the bloc was quoted as saying that all Palestinian factions, including Hamas - considered a terrorist organisation by Israel - should come together to fight a common enemy, "the Israeli occupation".

On another occasion, he spoke of incitement against "the occupation" and has visited Palestinian prisoners jailed for terrorism offences, sparking condemnation from many Israelis.

Oudeh was not alone: in 2019, Israeli press published a list of Israeli parliamentarians who made similar visits. Many of them were Arab Members of the Knesset (MKs).

One Twitter user, referring to MK Heba Yazbek from the Joint Arab List who expressed support for Kuntar, a Hezbollah operative, killed by Israeli forces in 2015 said:
"Today the President of the State of Israel will task Gantz with the formation of a government of disgrace. A government with terrorists, with an advisor to Arafat. The fate of the Jewish people will be determined by those who framed the picture of Samir Kuntar who cracked the skull of an innocent baby."
Other tweeps seem to agree. One user quipped:
"Gantz and Ayman Odeh heading one big Joint List of terror supporters, anti-Zionists, and anti-Semites."
A fellow netizen weighed in:
"Watching Benny Gantz giving a speech at the president's residence, receiving a mandate to form a government. The former chief of staff lied and is now forming a government with terror supporters. I want to scream but this is probably the Almighty's way to give us a wake up call for the next election..."
​Since December 2019 when the third election campaign kicked off, Gantz has been zigzagging between vows to stay away from the Joint Arab List to promises on becoming a prime minister for all Israelis, Jews and Arabs alike. That's why some are now feeling betrayed accusing the former chief of staff of selling Israel's security for political gain.
"State of Israel v. Benny Gantz. I accuse MK Gantz of fraud and breach of trust against the citizens of Israel. I blame MK Gantz for bribing the Joint List. I blame MK Gantz for fraudulently accepting a mandate."
​Ultimate Goal - Removal of Netanyahu

Others, however, were less concerned about cooperation with the Arab alliance. For them, the top priority is the removal of Netanyahu from office. Said one Twitter user:
"Benny Gantz, you received a mandate from the people. Use this power to defend our democracy that has been threatened. Use this power to curb the coronavirus. We are behind you."
Similar demands were voiced by another surfer:
"Gantz, you have the mandate to cure Israel! Stick to your promise not to sit down with Netanyahu. [Keep your word] to replace him as the citizens of Israel have chosen..."
In a time of a crisis, however, promises are often broken. As the numbers of those infected by the coronavirus continue to climb, calls urging Gantz to form a unity government with Netanyahu have intensified.

According to a recent poll, conducted by Israeli Channel 12, 65 percent of Israelis expressed support for an emergency unity government of Netanyahu and Gantz, with 26 percent rejecting the move.