Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, began consultations to entrust a new political figure with the mandate to form the government after the failure of the outgoing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The deadline given to Netanyahu after the March 23 elections to form a government expired at midnight without him being able to get a majority of 61 deputies of the 120 deputies of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) with a view to a government coalition.
Had he been close to reaching an agreement, Netanyahu could have requested a two-week extension. But he didn’t, both the presidency and his right-wing Likud party said.
After this failure, Rivlin has three days to decide to whom to give the mandate to form the government, and thus put an end to the political crisis that the country has been experiencing for two years.
The president has already asked the parties to present him the names of the candidates, and those that are circulating are: Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett.
Head of the opposition, whose formation Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) came second with 17 deputies in the legislative elections, Lapid would seek to form a “government of national union” to oust Netanyahu from power, tried for corruption and embezzlement in a series of cases.
“The time has come for a new government. It is a historic opportunity to break down the barriers that divide Israeli society, to unite the religious and the laity, the left, the right and the center,” launched the centrist Lapid this week.
The Israeli president received Lapid and Bennett separately, asking both of them to accept the mandate to form the next government, according to sources on both sides.
While it seems like a logical choice for many Israeli commentators, Lapid could be beaten down the stretch by Bennett, head of the radical right-wing Yamina formation (7 MPs).
Bennett places himself between the right-wing bloc, which Netanyahu tried in vain to unite, and the exchange bloc Lapid tries to consolidate.
The Likud could recommend that the mandate be granted to Bennett in a last-ditch effort to win a right-wing government.
In parliament, 65 of the 120 deputies are members of openly right-wing parties. But two of his parties, Yamina and Nueva Esperanza, chaired by Gideon Saar, refused to join Netanyahu’s camp.
Lapid and Bennett could also try to form a government together. According to an Israeli Channel 13 poll released Wednesday, 43% of Israelis want a Lapid-Bennett government.
But in a hyper-fragmented Israeli political scene, the Lapid and Bennett camps should not only join Netanyahu’s left, center and disappointed right, but also at least one Arab party.
For the first time in his political career, Naftali Bennett met alone with Mansur Abas, the leader of a small Arab and Islamist group that could be the missing piece to reach the magic number of 61 deputies.
If the opposition succeeds in forming a unity government, it would be the end point of an important page in Israel’s history, with the departure of Netanyahu, in power for the past 12 years.
Otherwise, Israelis could vote again for the fifth time in just over two years. According to a survey published by the Israel Democratic Institute, a Jerusalem analysis center, 70% of Israelis await new elections.