Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu fails to form government weeks after latest election as his rival Benny Gantz is given chance to try himself
- Netanyahu handed his mandate back to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday
- He failed to secure a majority in last month's parliamentary election
- Netanyahu had sought a broad 'unity' government with his rival Benny Gantz
- Now Gantz will attempt to form a government though it appears unlikely
Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu today ended his efforts to form a government weeks after the latest election.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, said on Monday he was returning the mandate back to Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin after 'working unceasingly ... to establish a broad unity government'.
Rivlin he will now hold consultations with the various political parties to tell them he intends to task Netanyahu's centrist rival Benny Gantz with the job of putting together a new government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the swearing in ceremony session of the 22nd Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem earlier this month
Netanyahu fell short of securing a 61-seat parliamentary majority in last month's national election.
But President Reuven Rivlin gave him the first opportunity to form a government because he had more support, 55 seats, than any other candidate.
Netanyahu had hoped to form a coalition with his chief rival, former military chief Gantz. But late today, Netanyahu announced he came up short.
'Since I received the mandate, I have worked tirelessly both in public and behind the scenes to establish a broad, national unity government. That's what the people want,' Mr Netanyahu said in a statement.
'During the past few weeks, I made every effort to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table. Every effort to establish a broad national unity government, every effort to prevent another election,' he said. 'To my regret, time after time he declined. He simply refused.'
In a short statement, Mr Gantz's Blue and White party said: 'Now is the time of action.'
'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,' it said.
Retired Israeli General Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's chief rival, will now have a chance to try to form a government (pictured: at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim, also known as Baqura in Jordan, on October 18)
There is no guarantee that he will succeed. He has expressed willingness to form a partnership with Likud, but not if Mr Netanyahu continues to lead while he faces such serious legal problems. For the time being, Likud has remained behind its leader.
Without Likud, Mr Gantz will have a hard time securing a majority in parliament. The opposition to Mr Netanyahu includes a diverse group, ranging from Arab parties to the secular ultra-nationalist party Yisrael Beitenu, that are unlikely to sit together in partnership.
If Mr Gantz fails during his 28-day window, a majority of legislators could try to endorse a third candidate, something that has never happened before, and if that fails, the country would be forced into the unprecedented scenario of a third election in under a year.