President Reuven Rivlin will task Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with forming a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced earlier this week he was unable to do so.
Israel now heads into a second round of negotiations after the second national election this year in hopes that a new government will emerge from the talks. However, Gantz’s chances of forming a coalition appear just as grim as Netanyahu’s.
The secular right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, has already said it will not endorse anyone for prime minister and Netanyahu’s 55-seat bloc reiterated their loyalty to the prime minister. That leaves Gantz with just 54 seats and now way of passing the 60-seat threshold without either Lieberman or Netanyahu.
Lieberman has called for a secular unity government comprised of Netanyahu’s Likud, Gantz and himself. His calls went unheeded and he accused the prime minister of “acting only from a personal motive” to form a coalition.
“He doesn’t care about the State of Israel. Israel’s interest is to prevent a third election and to form a wide liberal national government. Netanyahu is preventing this due to a personal agenda only, and dragging all of Likud after him,” Lieberman said.
Netanyahu has strong alliances with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties and has refused to abandon his traditional ultra-Orthodox partners to form a government with Gantz or Lieberman.
Lieberman is seeking a government without the powerful orthodox parties. The majority of Israelis want this as well. The problem is that Gantz will not sit with Netanyahu while he is under inditement for corruption charges. And Bibi will not allow someone else from within his Likud party lead.
Perhaps the only optimistic Israeli is Gantz himself.
“The feeling is terrific. We finished a morning workout and will now go for the day’s work. Everything is okay. We are always optimistic; it is a way of life.” —Benny Gantz
Gantz has 28 days to get a coalition together. If he fails, two scenarios are possible: a majority of lawmakers could try to endorse a third candidate, which has never happened in Israel; or the country would be forced into an unprecedented third election in one year.
Complicating the matter is a possible indictment on corruption charges that Netanyahu is facing. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to decide whether to indict or drop three corruption cases pending against the prime minister.
The uncertainty of these charges and the indictment has cast confusion over the coalition forming process. A poll showed that most Israelis — 53.5 percent — believe Netanyahu should resign as head of the Likud party, according to a survey released Tuesday. And 65 percent say he should resign if indicted.