Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched into what could prove to be an impossible mission to form a new government yesterday after the president tasked him with doing so following deadlocked elections.
The mandate from President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday night gave Netanyahu a temporary victory, but he must now cobble together a coalition without a clear path to a majority.
He will attempt to do so while facing potential corruption charges pending a hearing scheduled for October 2-3, and there are warnings that Israel could soon find itself headed to yet another election -- a third since April.
When accepting the mandate, Netanyahu again called on his main opponent Benny Gantz to join him in a unity government, but his challenger dismissed the premier’s negotiating tactics so far as unserious.
Gantz says he should be prime minister under a unity government since his centrist Blue and White party finished as the largest, while also insisting he will not serve in a government with a premier facing a serious indictment.
Blue and White has sought to convince members of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud to replace him as leader and form a unity government together, but there is no sign for now of that happening.
The situation has led Netanyahu’s critics to accuse him of effectively holding the country hostage, arguing that a unity coalition would be possible if he would step down.
But Netanyahu points out he has the support of more smaller parties in parliament than Gantz and has vowed not to abandon them in coalition talks.
He has given no indication he would willingly give up the post he has held for more than 13 years in all, a tenure that has made him Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.