Israeli president tasks Benny Gantz with forming government

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israel's president Reuven Rivlin tasked ex-military chief Benny Gantz on Wednesday evening with forming a new governing coalition and bringing Israel out of the longest political impasse in its history.

At a press conference in Jerusalem, Rivlin called on political parties to make "concessions", while Gantz promised to "try to form a liberal union government".

Following deadlocked elections on September 17, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had tried to form a coalition, but finally gave up on Monday.

On Tuesday, Rivlin indicated he would officially mandate Gantz with the task.

Gantz will have 28 days to form a government and if he too fails, Rivlin can ask parliament to agree on another candidate for prime minister.

If that also fails to produce a new government, Israel could face yet another election -- its third in the space of a year.

"We must behave responsibly towards Israeli citizens and avoid new elections," Gantz said Wednesday, adding that there would be room for "all elements of Israeli society" in his coalition.

Negotiators from Gantz' Blue and White party and Netanyahu's Likud party will meet Thursday, according to Likud.

A unity government may be the only way to avoid returning to the polls.

The Israeli president promised Wednesday night that he would do everything possible to avoid a third election.