Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu failed to put together a governing coalition by the May 4 deadline, returning the mandate to President Reuven Rivlin, who will now likely grant the opposition a chance to form an alternative government.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party was, by far, the largest among all Israeli political parties in the March elections. But he could not cobble together enough parties to form a 61-seat majority needed to govern. No Israeli political party has ever won outright.
Under Israel’s Basic Law, which serves as a quasi-constitution, the president of the country — who otherwise has little more than a ceremonial role — grants a “mandate” to the leader of the party most likely to be able to form a governing coalition.
Last month, Netanyahu’s opponents also seemed to have fallen short of a governing majority. But the project of ousting the long-term incumbent — already the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history — may have inspired new alliances.
Former Netanyahu aide Naftali Bennett, who leads the right-wing Yamina party, may lead a center-left coalition to replace Netanyahu, having apparently abandoned his promises not to join a government that included the Arab Ra’am party.
There is a chance that the anti-Netanyahu coalition will fall short after 28 days. Rivlin could then ask the Knesset itself to choose a prime minister and a government, or — more likely — Israel would hold its fifth parliamentary elections since 2019.