The long-term prime minister in Israel cannot form a coalition. His biggest rival in the last election could now get his chance. Despite this defeat, Netanyahu’s political future remains open.
Israel’s right-wing conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government within two years of the fourth parliamentary election. A corresponding deadline expired at midnight on Wednesday night.
This means that the opponents of Netanyahu have a chance to end the era of the 71-year-old. Whether they will succeed in this is still completely open. At the same time, Israel remains in its political crisis. Netanyahu will initially remain at the head of a transitional government.
Netanyahu has been in office for twelve years and is the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history. A corruption process is in progress against him. He rejects the allegations made therein.
Will there be new elections again?
It was expected that President Reuven Rivlin could appoint opposition leader Jair Lapid to form a government on Wednesday. His future party belongs to the political center. According to observers, however, forming a coalition will not be easy for him either. A fifth new election is not excluded. Should it come to that, Netanyahu might also have the chance to become prime minister again.
A candidate selected by the president has four weeks to form a coalition and can apply for a two-week extension. Rivlin could also give the mandate to the Knesset. If the mandate lies with parliament, each member of parliament can try to find the support of 61 of the total of 120 parliamentarians within 21 days. Then he has another two weeks to forge a coalition. If this fails, the parliament is automatically dissolved and there is a fifth new election.
After the March 23 vote, Rivlin initially charged Netanyahu with forming a government. Its Likud emerged from the election as the strongest force. However, the 71-year-old did not succeed in forming the alliance of right-wing and religious parties he was striving for. Netanyahu should have brought together the Religious Zionist Party around Bezalel Smotrich and the Arab Raam party behind him. The far-right Jewish party, however, refused to cooperate with the Arab MPs. Naftali Bennett’s ultra-right Jamina party also avoided making a clear commitment to Netanyahu.
Fragmented party landscape
After the election, Netanyahu received the highest number of recommendations for the formation of a government during discussions between the party leaders and President Rivlin. 52 MPs expressed their support for him. Lapid from the Future Party, which is located in the political center, received the second most recommendations with 45 votes. Observers therefore assume that Rivlin will now give him the mandate to form a government.
Lapid’s problem is that his camp, which consists mainly of opponents of Netanyahu, does not get a majority in parliament either. For a majority, the 57-year-old would also have to involve a number of parties that are far apart in the political spectrum. The Lapid camp needs the support of the Jamina party as well as an Arab party or the Religious Zionist Party.
The situation in Israel is so tricky because the party landscape is very fragmented. Both the right and left camps are made up of several parties. At the margins there are other divisions such as the ultra-right. The election at the end of March was not, as is so often the case in Israel, about a decision between right or left, but rather the question of whether one is for or against Netanyahu. Even if they belong to a camp, some parties are not compatible with alliances. In addition to programmatic differences, this is also due to personal animosities. Netanyahu’s relationship with other right-wing main characters such as Bennett, Gideon Saar and Avigdor Lieberman is considered to be very difficult.