Israel’s president has tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a new government after last week’s deadlocked election,his office announced.
The announcement on Wednesday followed a joint meeting between President Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu and the prime minister’s main challenger, Benny Gantz.
Nominated by Rivlin on live TV, Netanyahu will have 28 days to put together a government and can ask the president for a two-week extension, if necessary.
If he fails, Gantz will likely be given a chance.
“I have decided to give you, Sir, the opportunity to assemble a government,” Rivlin told Netanyahu at a nomination ceremony.
After the announcement, Netanyahu called for the swift formation of a broad unity government, saying “national reconciliation” was needed in light of alleged threats from Iran and the unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s soon-to-be-announced peace “deal of the century”.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and centrist Gantz’s Blue and White Partyfailed to reach a coalition deal in talks launched on Tuesday.
Gantz said after the announcement that he had been calling for “a broad, liberal unity government” since before the September 17 election.
“For me, unity is not a constraint created by election results, but a real will that stems from the necessity to unite the people,” he said.
Gantz’s Blue and White party has repeatedly said it will not sit in a government led by Netanyahu, who faces indictments over corruption charges, pending a hearing which is set to be held next week.
Eight days after an inconclusive election, Netanyahu has no clear path to a fifth term: a Likud-led bloc of right-wing and religious parties is six seats short of a ruling majority in the 120-seat parliament.
In the new countdown, Likud has the pledged support of 55 legislators against 54 for Blue and White Party.
Netanyahu’s failure to clinch victory in a ballot in April led to last week’s election, which left him politically weakened.
Former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a possible kingmaker, has been keeping his far-right Yisrael Beitenu party on the fence since the election, citing differences with both Likud’s and Blue and White’s political allies.