Ex-military chief has 28 days to forge coalition and avoid third election in year
Israel’s president has tasked the former military chief Benny Gantz with forming a government after Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so following an inconclusive election last month.
Neither Gantz’s Blue and White coalition nor the incumbent prime minister’s Likud party came out with a clear win, and few expect the opposition leader to form a coalition through deals with disparate political parties with ease.
“I promised that I would establish a liberal unity government and that is what I intend to do,” said Gantz at a formal ceremony at the president’s official residence on Wednesday evening. “The government that I will establish will serve all citizens of Israel.”
Gantz will have 28 days to try, after which parliament can nominate a third candidate, although that appears extremely unlikely given the divided makeup of Israel’s legislature, the Knesset.
If no contender can end the political crisis, the country will face an unprecedented third election in a year.
“These are fateful days,” said the president, Reuven Rivlin, after Wednesday’s event. “The urgency of the hour and the challenges that we are facing obligate us to form a government as soon as possible.”
The ceremony marked the first time in more than a decade that anyone but Netanyahu be given a chance to head the Israeli government.
An end to the Netanyahu era would be an extraordinary moment in Israeli politics, as he has led the country for a record-breaking total of more than 13 years. The move does not necessarily conclude his political career or his chances of leading the country’s next administration.
However, the stalemate has wounded the prime minister, especially as he has become more deeply embroiled in three potential corruption cases. Israel’s attorney general is expected to announce in the coming weeks if he plans to indict.
The charges add pressure on Netanyahu to remain in high office. If he retains the role of prime minister, he will not be required to step down, even if indicted. Netanyahu has denied all allegations.