‘Dark days’ in Israel after PM and rival fail to form govt

TEL AVIV: Israel’s president told lawmakers on Thursday to name a candidate to form a new government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz both failed, a move that probably sets the stage for a third election within a year.
“These are harsh dark days in the annals of the State of Israel,” President Reuven Rivlin said as he announced that the centrist Gantz had failed to muster enough support for a stable coalition following an unsuccessful attempt by the conservative Netanyahu. During a 21-period mandated by law, Knesset legislators can nominate anyone in the 120-seat assembly to form a government.
If that fails, an election is triggered within 90 days, sending voters back to the polls for the third time within a year after inconclusive elections in April and September.
The prolonged stalemate comes at a tricky time for Israel on the domestic and international fronts.
Its conflict with Iran has deepened — Israeli warplanes hit Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday while the Palestinian issue remains unresolved as violence has flared anew.
Netanyahu’s caretaker cabinet has been unable to plug a gaping hole in government finances and the deficit has swelled over the past year. Relations between Israel’s Jewish majority and its Arab minority, and those between secular Israelis and ultra-Orthodox Jews are also at issue.
For Netanyahu, not securing another term as prime minister also has legal implications. It may increase his vulnerability to possible indictment on corruption charges. Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister does not have to step down if charged.
Gantz and Netanyahu had looked at a power-share within a national unity government after they came neck-and-neck in both elections.
Turning to lawmakers on Thursday, Rivlin said: “In the coming 21 days, there will be no ‘bloc’ or ‘party’. Each and every person will sit alone with their conscience and will have to answer one question: What is my duty towards the State of Israel?”
— Reuters