Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will get another chance to form the country’s next government after both his and rival Benny Gantz’s parties failed to secure anything approaching a majority in the Knesset last week.
Final results from the September 17 election gave the rightwing Likud 32 seats compared to Benny Gantz’s more moderate Blue and White’s 33 in the 120-seat parliament.
Israel’s longest-serving PM now faces the challenge of assembling a majority of at least 61 seats in the parliament – and with a corruption indictment hanging over his head, failure to unite a majority behind him could spell more trouble for him than just losing power.
If Netanyahu cannot form a ruling coalition in 28 days – a very real possibility, given that the parties supporting him only hold 55 Knesset seats – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin can either grant him a two-week extension or give Gantz a chance to form a coalition. The parties backing Gantz, however, control just 54 seats, meaning he is likely to have the same problem. Netanyahu already failed to form a ruling coalition once this year – September’s election was called after April’s botched attempt.
Rivlin had urged the candidates to work together to form a unity government following the election, but their terms were mutually exclusive. Gantz refused to work with Likud unless it replaced Netanyahu as leader, and was not interested in including ultra-Orthodox parties in his secular coalition. Netanyahu, on the other hand, has partnered with those parties in the past and has pledged not to abandon them. He also considers any potential alliance with Arab parties anathema, having placed cameras near polling places in Arab neighborhoods in what critics call a blatant attempt to discourage voting.