Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attempt to the next government of Israel.
President Reuven Rivlin announced his decision at a nomination ceremony in Jerusalem after unity talks between Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party broke down last night.
Netanyahu has 28 days to build a coalition. If unsuccessful, he can request Rivlin for a further two weeks. If that fails, Gantz will get an opportunity to be Israel’s leader as the second largest faction.
Netanyahu played down his chances as a “little smaller” than Gantz’s to do so and called for a broad national unity government as it would bring about “national reconciliation”.
“It’s vital at all times, but now especially,” he noted.
“We have been through a tough election campaign on all sides and for all sides,” he added. “We need to unite the nation, to heal the rifts because we are facing three huge challenges.”
He added that Israel faced security and economic challenges but had a great opportunity of settling its borders when US President Donald Trump presents his Middle East peace plan.
Gantz said his party was committed to the idea of unity but would not sit in a government led by a Prime Minister facing criminal charges.
Rivlin said both candidates were responsible for resolving the political deadlock.
“The Israeli people need toֲ know that a government can be established,” he noted. “It is true that everyone will have to compromise. But if a government is not formed, it is the citizens of Israel who will pay the greatest price.”
Last week’s elections ended with Blue and White claiming 33 seats, one ahead of Likud.
Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc holds 55 MKs consisting of far right and ultra-Orthodox partners, one more than Gantz’s center-left list of 54 MKs.
Neither Party could reach 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
The Central Elections Committee Official recorded official results of the historic elections for the 22nd Knesset.
Aside from Blue & White and Likud, Joint Arab List gained 13 seats, Shas 9, Yisrael Beitenu 8, Yemina 7, United Torah 7, Labor-Gesher 6 and Democratic Camp 5.
Rivlin earlier in the week summoned Netanyahu and Gantz to a meeting to pressure them into forming a unity government as a third election was to be avoided.
The two leaders duly met at Rivlin’s Jerusalem residence but it quickly ended. Party officials blamed each other for a breakdown in talks.
According to Israeli media, Likud offered Blue and White an extended period up to three years as Prime Minister if Netanyahu initially sat as leader, potentially just 12 months.
But major issues were held back a unity deal.
Neither party could form a coalition without eight seats won by Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party, who called on Gantz and Netanyahu to agree a secular unity coalition.