For the second time this year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuhas failed to form a government, opening the door for his main rival Benny Gantz to do so.
But the former Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff’s chances are no more certain, as Israel faces the reality of protracted political deadlock and the growing possibility of a third general election within 12 months.
In a video statement, explaining why he was returning the formal right to form a ruling coalition to President Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu said Monday evening: “In the course of recent weeks, I made every effort in order to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table, every effort in order to establish a wide national government, every effort to prevent additional elections. Unfortunately, time after time he simply refused.”
For the first time in a decade, Netanyahu is not firmly in charge of Israeli politics. He has tightened his grip on his own Likud party and united the religious Zionist and ultra-Orthodox parties under his leadership, but he has shown himself unable to win an election decisively two times in a row.
On top of that, a potential indictment in ongoing corruption investigations before the end of the year could deal another major blow to the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history. Netanyahu has maintained his innocence, but if he is formally charged it would likely mean further damage both political and personal.