Israel's Netanyahu fails to form new coalition government, gives up mandate

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave up his effort to form a new government on Monday after failing to secure a majority coalition, creating an opportunity for centrist rival Benny Gantz to replace Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

It’s a step that could push the country into new political uncertainty.

Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, said he had been unable to form a government following an election in September, and was returning the mandate back to Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin.

Netanyahu fell short of securing a 61-seat parliamentary majority. But Rivlin gave Netanyahu the first opportunity to form a government because he had more support — 55 seats — than any other candidate.

The president said he now intends to task Gantz with the job of putting together a new government.

“In the past weeks, I made every effort to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table, every effort to establish a broad national government, every effort to avoid another election,” Netanyahu said.

Gantz also has no clear path to a majority, and should he come up short, it would almost certainly lead to another general election — Israel’s third since April.

Blue and White party Leader Benny Gantz looks on during his party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, on Oct. 3. Israel’s president is tasking Gantz with the job of forming a new government. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Gantz’s Blue and White party said in a statement it was “determined to form a liberal unity government.”

Netanyahu, who has been in power for the past decade and 13 years in total, has seen his political strength wane as he faces a looming indictment on corruption allegations that he denies.

Gantz, a former military chief, has pledged not to serve in a government under a premier facing criminal charges.

Likud placed second in the September ballot with 32 seats in the 120-member parliament, behind 33 for Blue and White.

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