Jerusalem: Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday announced that Opposition Leader Benny Gantz would be given the first opportunity to form a new government, throwing the political future of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into doubt.
Netanyahu’s Likud emerged as the largest party in the March 2 election – Israel’s third in under a year – but with his smaller religious and nationalist allies, he received the support of only 58 lawmakers during consultations on Sunday, leaving Likud three seats short of the required majority.
Gantz’s Blue and White received the support of parties representing 61 seats, a slim majority. However, those parties are also divided, and it is not clear whether Gantz will succeed in putting together a coalition.
The President had summoned Netanyahu and Gantz to an emergency meeting in the hope of breaking a deadlock that has paralysed the political system. The President is responsible for designating the candidate he thinks has the best chance of being able to form a government by securing a parliamentary majority.
With rival sides evenly divided following the latest election, a unity government may be the only way out of the deadlock, which comes as the government confronts an increasingly serious coronavirus threat.
The opposition is deeply fragmented – with the predominantly Arab Joint List and the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu among them – giving Gantz slim odds of being able to cobble together a government.