Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Israel's Netanyahu fails to form government, passing baton to Gantz

Inconclusive election results in September put Israel in political paralysis

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned the mandate to form a new government on Monday. EPA/ATEF SAFADI
 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned the mandate to form a new government on Monday. EPA/ATEF SAFADI

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to form a new government for the second time this year, paving the way for his rival Benny Gantz to try.

"A short time ago I informed the president that I was handing back my mandate to try to form a government," Mr Netanyahu said on his official Facebook page.

He said he worked “openly and behind the scenes” to try to form a “broad national unity government” that “the people want and Israel needs in a time of rising security challenges".

Mr Netanyahu blamed Mr Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White party, for refusing to negotiate with him on his preferred terms.

He returned the mandate to build a governing coalition back to President Reuven Rivlin just before the four-week negotiating term ended.

While his failure was not a surprise, it marks the first time since 2006 that a leader other than Mr Netanyahu will have the chance to form a government.

But like the prime minister, Mr Gantz will have 28 days to form a government and faces a challenge to do so.

Inconclusive elections results in September put Israel in political paralysis, with Blue and White and Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party deadlocked.

“The time for spin is over," a spokesman for Blue and White said. "The time has come for action."

“The party is determined to form a liberal unity government under Benny Gantz, who the nation elected a month ago.”

It was the second time the incumbent leader has failed to build a coalition this year after a botched attempt in May.

Mr Netanyahu then chose to have Parliament dissolve itself and send the country to another vote in September, rather than risk another politician having the chance to lead negotiations.

The president has three days to tell Mr Gantz of the decision after he gives all parliamentary factions a chance to give their positions on the move, the president's office said.

A looming corruption indictment and disagreement with a former coalition partner have endangered Mr Netanyahu’s historically long rule.

He and Mr Gantz both call for a national unity government, but both will have to make serious compromises and there is little sign that is likely as yet.

If Mr Gantz cannot form a government, which would require support from most of the 120-member Parliament, then a majority could nominate someone from their ranks, which has not been done before.

If all of those options fail, then the country could go to a third round of elections, further delaying its ability to tackle a budget deficit, among other decisions.

Updated: October 21, 2019 11:37 PM

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