Benny Gantz, the main rival to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was elected Speaker of the Knesset (parliament) on Thursday, in a surprising maneuver that could lead to the formation of a unity government that would keep Netanyahu in power.

Upon his election, Benny Gantz said that he is seeking to form an emergency government, because the stage in which Israel lives due to the spread of Corona's infection is extraordinary and requires extraordinary decisions, as he put it.

The move came after the announcement of the dissolution of the Blue and White coalition, following the withdrawal of two parties from it led by Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya'alon, who considered that Gantz slapped the coalition by accepting Netanyahu's conditions for forming a national unity government, which strengthens the possibility of forming this government.

Gantz was elected with the partial support of his blue-and-white coalition, and with the support of Netanyahu's Likud party, leaving the former general many of his political allies raging, to pave the way for a partnership with a prime minister facing an indictment in criminal cases.

This sudden development, during a 48-hour political drama, caused a blue and white alliance in a state of confusion, but Gantz's move kept the door open to the possibility of exchanging it with Netanyahu as prime minister.

Each insisted that he occupy the position first, after three rounds of inconclusive general elections in less than a year.

The development comes after a year of political stalemate, which saw three inconclusive elections held; no fourth round is desired.

Israel is also facing the outbreak of the Corona virus, with more than 2,600 confirmed cases and eight deaths, and placing most of the country in a state of partial closure, which has had a great impact on the economy.

"These are not normal days and require us to take extraordinary measures. Then, as I said, I intend to study and advance all efforts to form a national emergency government in every possible way," Gantz told parliament, accepting the position of Speaker of the Knesset.

Yair Lapid, one of Gantz's allies in Blue and White, criticized the move.

"What is forming today is not a unity government or an emergency government," he said in a statement. "This is another government for Netanyahu. Benny Gantz surrendered without a fight and crawled into the Netanyahu government."

Netanyahu proposed a "national emergency" government with Gantz in order to help tackle the emerging Corona virus crisis.

The Israeli President pressured them to unite their forces, with the possibility that the Israelis would face a general closure within days in an effort to reduce the incidence of corona.

Gantz was excluding work with Netanyahu, referring to the looming trial of the prime minister on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, charges that Netanyahu denies.

But the Likud party has threatened to abandon its efforts to form a unity government if the original candidate for the Blue and White party - which opposes a partnership with Netanyahu - was chosen for the post of parliament whose members were sworn in recently.

With the political stalemate, the chances of Gantz forming a single government seemed slim.

At least one member of Netanyahu's right-wing faction - Defense Minister Naftali Bennett - publicly congratulated both Netanyahu and Gantz on the unity government agreement, but no formal announcement has yet been reached that agreement has been reached.