Skip to main content

Israel's Netanyahu gives up on forming government after failing to build coalition

Rival Benny Gantz is now expected to be tasked with trying to cobble together an alliance
Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to form a coalition for the second time this year (AFP/File photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he is giving up on forming a government, after the Likud Party leader failed to find partners to form a coalition.

Netanyahu said on Monday that he was returning the mandate to form a government to President Reuven Rivlin after "working unceasingly... to establish a broad unity government," Reuters reported.

"A short time ago I informed the president that I was handing back my mandate to try to form a government," Netanyahu said in a video posted on his official Facebook page, as reported by AFP news agency.

Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with forming a government after close September election results.

The prime minister's right-wing Likud party finished a seat short of centrist Benny Gantz's Blue and White party in the 17 September vote.

But political parties generally must form coalitions in order to get a ruling majority in the country's 120-seat Knesset.

After Netanyahu's announcement on Monday, Rivlin said he would consult with various political parties to let them know that he intends to ask Gantz to form a government.

Though Gantz's Blue and White party won the most seats in the last election, the former Israeli army chief does not have a clear path to forming a parliamentary majority either.

'Time for action'

During the last election, counting the support of smaller parties, Netanyahu had the backing of 55 legislators, one more than Gantz's 54 - which left neither with a majority.

The Joint List, which includes Palestinian citizens of Israel, emerged as Israel's third-largest party with 13 seats.

The September vote was called after Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister, failed to form a coalition after an earlier parliamentary vote in April.

King Bibi: The ruler who lost his kingdom
Read More »

At that time, Netanyahu couldn't get the support of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, headed by his former defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Netanyahu, in power for the past decade, faces a looming indictment on corruption allegations. 

While he denies the charges, Israel's attorney general is expected to decide by the end of December whether to indict him.

Reacting to the news that Netanyahu had failed to form a coalition, Blue and White said in a statement on Monday that "the time of spin is over, and it is now time for action," AFP reported.

"Blue and White is determined to form the liberal unity government, led by Benny Gantz, that the people of Israel voted for a month ago," the statement read.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel from the communist Hadash party, tweeted that he hoped "this would be the last time Netanyahu incites against the Arab citizens as a prime minister". 

Last month, most of the Palestinian political parties in Israel broke with longstanding precedent to endorse Gantz, a move they said aimed to keep Netanyahu from being tasked with forming the next government.

Another Hadash MK, Ofer Cassif, also criticised the Israeli premier on Monday, calling Netanyahu "the worst prime minister in the history of the country", a "racist" and a "liar".

Gantz will have 28 days to try to form a coalition government. If he fails, a third election in less than a year could be called.