Blue and White leader Benny Gantz rejected on Thursday afternoon Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call to join a unity government under the Likud leader’s leadership, stating that he would be prime minister of a potential unity government.

“I am interested [in] and intend to form a broad, liberal unity government under my leadership,” Gantz said in a statement ahead of Blue and White’s first faction meeting since the elections.

“To form a unity government you do not come forward with political blocs and spins but rather honesty, statesmanship, responsibility and seriousness,” he said, referring to Thursday’s agreement among the right-wing and religious parties to conduct coalition negotiations together, under Netanyahu’s leadership.

Just moments after Gantz’s announcement, Netanyahu said in a statement, “I was surprised and disappointed that as of now, Benny Gantz still refuses to respond to my call to meet. The president called for a unity government, but without a meeting between the two major party leaders, it is impossible to form a unity government.”

“The State of Israel needs as broad a unity government as possible—not another election and certainly not a government that relies on anti-Zionist parties,” he added, referring to the Joint Arab List, which received 13 seats according to latest figures, making it the third-largest party in the Knesset.

Following Gantz’s reply to Netanyahu, Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman similarly criticized the prime minister, writing on Facebook on Thursday afternoon: “Quit the political exercises, tricks and shtick. Come sit—you, [Blue and White chairman] Benny [Gantz] and I—in order to form a broad liberal unity government for the future of the State of Israel.”

According to the latest figures with 95 percent of ballots counted, Gantz’s party won 33 Knesset seats, compared to Likud’s 31.

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