Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday he has informed President Reuven Rivlin he has been unable to form a new government following September elections. "A short time ago I informed the president that I was handing back my mandate to try to form a government," he said in a video posted on his official Facebook page. Last month, Israel’s president had tasked Netanyahu with forming a new government. President Reuven Rivlin mandated Netanyahu to try to form the government after his initial attempts at negotiating a unity deal between the prime minister and his main challenger Benny Gantz failed. Netanyahu again called for a unity government when accepting the mandate from Rivlin, but the two sides appear a long way from a compromise.
The 69-year-old prime minister, noting security and diplomatic challenges, had said a “broad national unity government ... is needed now.” “Everyone understands that there won’t be another opportunity,” Netanyahu said from Rivlin’s residence.
“That’s why I will do everything in my power to establish it with joint leadership.” Gantz however criticised the negotiating tactics Netanyahu’s Likud had used so far and reiterated that his own Blue and White would not be part of a government with a prime minister facing indictment for serious crimes.
Netanyahu faced the possibility of a corruption indictment in the weeks ahead, pending a hearing set for early October. Rivlin’s announcement followed a joint meeting between the president, Netanyahu and Gantz, their second since the September 17 election.
In Rivlin’s remarks, the president said he had so far been unable to have the two work out a unity deal, which he has repeatedly said is needed to form a stable government.
Netanyahu had 28 days to form a government, with a possible two-week extension. Now, Rivlin can then assign the task to someone else. Final results from September 17 voting gave Gantz’s centrist Blue and White 33 seats, ahead of right-wing Likud’s 32 out of a total 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Neither has a clear path to a majority coalition. Netanyahu received the endorsement of 55 members of parliament for the post of prime minister after the election, while Gantz received 54. Ten of the parliament members endorsing Gantz however are from Arab parties and have said they will not serve in a government with the ex-military leader. Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and had so far not shown any sign of willingly giving up the post he has held for a total of more than 13 years.