Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu experience a midnight deadline on Tuesday to form a new coalition government – or he could explore the possibility of leading his Likud party into opposition for the first time in twelve years.
Netanyahu had tried to secure a legislative majority since March 23 – when the election came to a standstill for the fourth consecutive time in two years.
Despite repeated meetings with many of its rivals, Netanyahu was unable to conclude an agreement during a four-week window. Its Likud party has 30 members but needs a total of 61 MPs to form a 120-member Knesset government, the Israeli parliament.
The window would expire at midnight, and then the case would return to President Reuven Rivlin in the absence of an agreement.
Failure to reach an agreement will not immediately push Netanyahu out of office.
Rivlin could give him another two weeks to form a coalition. He could give one of NetaNetanyahu’sonents the opportunity to form a government, or in a final step of desperation, send the matter directly to parliament.
This would give legislators the chance to elect one of their own as prime minister. If all options fail, the country will fall again in autumn, meaning months of continued political insensibility.
In the March 23 election, Netanyahu’s party emerged as the largest single party, with 30 seats in the Knesset. But to create a government, he must have the support of a 61-seat majority.
The task was greatly complicated by members of its own religious and nationalist base.
The New Hope party, led by a former Netanyahu ally, declines to work under the prime minister because of extended personal differences.
Religious Zionism, a far-right party that advocates an openly racist platform, supports Netanyahu but has ruled out joining the Arab partners he has advocated in a government. Yamina, another right-wing party, led by a former Netanyahu assistant, refused to join him or his opponents.
Netanyahu said on Monday that he had offered Yamina chief Naftali Bennett the chance to share the job as prime minister in a rotation while Bennett held the post for the first year.
Bennett replies: ‘I n’ver asked Netanyahu to be prime minister. I asked to form a government. Unfortunately, he does not have it.”
“The looming case over Netanyahu was his ongoing corruption trial. Netanyahu is charged with fraud, breach of trust and bribery in a series of scandals. The trial moved into the evidence phase, with an embarrassing testimony accusing him of favouring a powerful media magnate. Netanyahu denies the charges.