Israeli PM Netanyahu fails to form government again, opening door for Gantz

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) informed the country's president on Oct 21, 2019 he could not form a new government following deadlocked September elections, making way for his opponent Benny Gantz (right) to try.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) informed the country's president on Oct 21, 2019 he could not form a new government following deadlocked September elections, making way for his opponent Benny Gantz (right) to try.PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (BLOOMBERG) - Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday (Oct 21) gave up the privilege of leading the formation of a new government.

Netanyahu officially returned the mandate to build a governing coalition back to President Reuven Rivlin, his spokesman said, acting just before the four-week negotiating window ended.

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

In a video posted on his Facebook page, Netanyahu said he worked "openly and behind the scenes" to try and form a "broad national unity government," that "the people want and Israel needs in a time of rising security challenges."

According to an email from Rivlin's office, the president intends to hand the task of putting together the next coalition over to former military chief Benny Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White bloc and faces an equally difficult path.

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

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

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

This marks the second time Netanyahu failed to build a coalition this year after a bumbled attempt in May.

 
 
 

He then opted to have parliament dissolve itself and send the country to a re-vote in September, rather than risk another politician getting the chance to lead negotiations.

The president has three days to inform Gantz of the decision to tap him to form the government, and he must first give all parliament factions a chance to convey their position on his decision, Rivlin's office said.

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

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

If Gantz can't form a government, which would require support from a majority of the 120-member parliament, then a majority of parliament members could nominate someone from their ranks - a move without precedent.

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