Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has again failed to create a government by the midnight deadline. This failure has made his political career in jeopardy and prolonging the country’s political stalemate that has observed voters return to the polls four times in less than two years.
The mandate given by President Reuven Rivlin to Netanyahu to build a government expired on Tuesday at midnight with no breakthrough in coalition talks.
It is for the 3rd time in two years that Netanyahu, 71, has failed to establish a government.
He had been striving for the past 28 days to form a coalition after the fourth inconclusive election in two years.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is till now the largest on Israel’s fractured political scene. Likud had won 30 seats March’s general election. Netanyahu couldn’t gather enough coalition partners to command a majority of at least 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset, the Israeli parliament.
President Rivlin’s spokesman during a press release said: “Shortly before midnight, Netanyahu informed the President’s Residence that he was unable to make a government then returned the mandate to the president.” The statement said that Rivlin will contact the parties represented within the Knesset (Israel’s unicameral parliament) on the continuation of the tactic of forming a government.
The onus is now on the President to choose which of Israel’s other political leaders he might consign with the task of trying to form a governing coalition.
The favourite to urge the acceptance is centrist Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party came second behind Netanyahu’s Likud within the March 23 election.
Lapid is a one-time Finance Minister who came into politics in 2012 after a successful career as a TV news anchor.
But even if Lapid is given the charge, the key man in coalition negotiations would be Naftali Bennett. He is a a former Defence Minister and leader of the right-wing Yamina party. Bennett’s party had won 7 seats in the election.
Netanyahu failed to convince Bennett to join him in a power-sharing agreement that would have seen the pair take turns as prime minister.
Bennett had rejected the offer, saying that even with his support Netanyahu could not gather a majority.
Likud accused Bennett for foiling Netanyahu’s chances by denying to commit to a right-wing government.
The right-wing would have certainly have led to the formation of a government joined by additional members of parliament.
The new political development increased the likelihood that his Likud party might be pushed into the opposition for the first time in 12 years.
A lengthy period of political stalemate in Israel has been hampered by Netanyahu’s ongoing trial for corruption.
His opponents argue he should not remain in office while facing criminal charges.
Netanyahu being Israel’s longest-serving leader has led five governments since 1996. The last, which saw him share power with the then-main Opposition party to help control the coronavirus pandemic, collapsed in December, triggering the latest elections.
With the mandate now back in his hands, the President is set to discuss again on Wednesday with the parties before making decision on his next move, expected within the next few days.
President Rivlin could now officially ask another political leader to try to convene a coalition.
But this can risk the country going to the polls once again.
Instead of giving it to a private , he could also prefer to hand the mandate over to parliament, effectively inviting any of the parliamentarians to return back to him as the head of a 61-seat majority.
Until any new government is agreed and sworn into office, Netanyahu remains Israel’s Prime Minister.