Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu has failed for the second time this year to form a government.
On Monday, Netanyahu returned his mandate to build a coalition to Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin. A statement from Rivlin’s office indicated that he would pass the mandate to Netanyahu’s main political rival, former Israel Defense Forces chief-of-staff Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu was thwarted in his attempt to form a coalition in April by erstwhile ally and former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, who refused to bring his party, Yisrael Beyteinu, into a right-wing coalition made of Netanyahu’s Likud and smaller religious parties. Lieberman refused again during the past several weeks, demanding instead that Netanyahu and Gantz form a government together.
“Over the past few weeks I’ve made every effort to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table,” Netanyahu said in a video posted on his Facebook page. “Unfortunately, he just simply refused time after time.”
Gantz, who leads the Blue-and-White party, wrote on Twitter simply, “The time has come for Blue-and-White.” (The statement rhymes in Hebrew.)
2019 was the first year in Israel’s history in which the country held two consecutive national elections. Since Netanyahu’s December 2018 announcement that the country would go to elections, Israel has been ruled by what is essentially a caretaker government.
If no government is formed in the coming weeks, Israel will find itself in the midst of an unprecedented third national election within a year.
The rollout of President Trump’s Israel-Palestinian peace plan has been delayed as a result of Israel’s political deadlock.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu faces an impending court decision on whether to indict him for corruption charges.