Israel’s president has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political rival, Benny Gantz, to form a coalition government following Netanyahu’s failure to do so.
During a press conference in Jerusalem al-Quds on Wednesday evening, President Reuven Rivlin gave the former military chief 28 days to put together a unity government.
“I promised to put in place a liberal unity government and that’s what I intend to do,” Gantz said at the news conference.
This is the first time in a decade that someone other than Netanyahu will be trying to form a government. If Gantz fails, Israel will have to hold an unprecedented third election in the span of a year, something that seems likely given the divided makeup of Israel’s parliament.
“These are fateful days,” said Rivlin after the event. “The urgency of the hour and the challenges that we are facing obligate us to form a government as soon as possible.”
Gantz’s Blue and White party received 33 out of 120 Knesset seats in Israel’s September 17 election, followed closely by Netanyahu’s Likud party with 32, both far from securing a majority in parliament.
Since Gantz’s bloc of center-left parties was smaller than Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, Netanyahu became the first person who got the chance to form a coalition.
However, the office of Israel’s president announced on Monday that Netanyahu had returned the mandate to form the cabinet to the president due to inability to do so.
Now, on his path to to form a cabinet, Gantz needs to make a deal with the Arab parties and the regime’s former minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beitenu party with nine seats in parliament.
The former minister, who used to be a major ally of Netanyahu, is now one of his key opponents. He had previously said that any unity government should include both Likud and Blue and White parties. But later, he announced that he was unconvinced by Netanyahu’s unity offer.
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