Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suffered a bitter defeat in his bid to hang on as premier by failing to form a new government, but his opponent faced similar difficulties yesterday.
Ex-military chief Benny Gantz is now expected to be given the chance to try to negotiate a coalition by President Reuven Rivlin, but a deadlock following September 17 polls remains and yet another election cannot be ruled out.
It would be the third election within a year after Netanyahu also failed to form a coalition after April polls.
Netanyahu’s decision to inform Rivlin on Monday night that he has been unable to form a government by no means signalled the end of his tenure as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
He remains premier as long as no new government is formed, and a number of scenarios exist that could see him retain his post even as he faces the possibility of corruption charges in the weeks ahead.
One of the few things clear in Israel’s post-electoral morass was that Netanyahu, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Monday, was not giving up.
But his announcement was a landmark moment in Israeli politics since Netanyahu has been given the president’s mandate to form a government after every election since 2009.
When announcing his decision with a social media video, Netanyahu sought to blame Gantz since the ex-military chief has refused to negotiate on the premier’s preferred terms.
Rivlin said Monday night he intends to ask Gantz to try to form a government, but he can take up to three days to hear out the parties elected to parliament before officially tasking him with doing so.
The deadlock following September 17 polls will likely require major concessions or a decision by members of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud to abandon him -- and both of those options appear a long way off for now.