By Nathan Morley
The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, have said a unity government deal was close which could break the country's ongoing political deadlock.
Israel has been in political deadlock for 18-months.
But now Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz said in separate statements that ‘substantial progress was made’ in a meeting on Monday. That prompted Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin to grant extra time to try and form a unity government.
The two men now have until the end of Wednesday to forge a deal.
Gantz has now changed tack. He had originally promised to form a government without Netanyahu, but now says an emergency unity government is needed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Israel now stands at 11,868. The death toll from the virus has reached 117 people.
If the two men fail to reach an agreement, Israel faces a fourth election after three previous rounds produced inconclusive results.
Netanyahu has led a caretaker since December 2018.
Separately, Netanyahu has announced a re-tightening of anti-Covid measures ahead of the Jewish holiday of Second Passover this week.