Netanyahu misses deadline to form new Israeli government, reign could come to end

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s time in power could be at an end after he failed to form a new governing coalition in the country’s parliament by a midnight deadline Tuesday.

The Israeli parliament, called the Knesset, is composed of 120 lawmakers from several different parties, none of which have enough seats to form a majority on their own. For the past two years, no political party in Israel has been successful in creating a coalition to form a governing majority, resulting in four consecutive elections that have each ended in deadlock.

After an election, the party leader with the most support from lawmakers is asked by the president, who holds ceremonial powers, to form a coalition with other minority parties that has enough votes to create a majority. The party leader that can build a majority coalition becomes prime minister. As leader of the Likud Party, Netanyahu has held the position of prime minister for a total of 15 years, including the last 12 years consecutively.

After the most recent election on March 23, 52 lawmakers endorsed Netanyahu for prime minister, short of the 61-vote majority needed to govern but the most support for any party leader. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu a four-week deadline to form a new government, but Netanyahu, who has been indicted on charges of public corruption and is currently on trial, was unable to bring a majority together.

To avoid a fifth election in two years, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that President Rivlin has asked to Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, to attempt form a government.

“The main consideration that Israeli presidents must weigh when arriving at the decision who to entrust with forming a government is who has the best chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the new Knesset,” Rivlin said.

“From the number of recommendations, it is clear that MK Yair Lapid could form a government that has the confidence of the Knesset, despite there being many difficulties,” he added.

Lapid now has 28 days to build a governing coalition, with a June 2 deadline. He has proposed a power-sharing agreement with Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett, whose party only controls seven seats in the Knesset but enough votes to control who wins a majority.

“After two years of political paralysis, Israeli society is hurting,” Lapid said in a statement promising unity. “A unity government isn’t a compromise or a last resort – it’s a goal, it’s what we need. We need a government that will reflect the fact that we don’t hate one another. A government in which left, right and center will work together to tackle the economic and security challenges we face. A government that will show that our differences are a source of strength, not weakness.”

If Lapid’s effort is successful, Netanyahu’s long-term reign as prime minister will end. But the task of forming a governing coalition is difficult, as the last four elections in Israel have demonstrated.

Should Lapid fail to build a ruling coalition, it’s likely that Israel will have yet another election and the process will start again.

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Author: Chris Pandolfo

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