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With no coalition in sight, Benny Gantz says he is unable to form a government

Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, looks on during a party faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem October 3, 2019.
Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, looks on during a party faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem October 3, 2019. Ronen Zvulun/File photo, Reuters

Leader of the opposition Blue and White party Benny Gantz announced that he has been unable to form a coalition government by a Wednesday midnight deadline. Lawmakers now have 21 days for new coalition talks. 

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The Blue and White leader said in a statement that he had informed President Reuven Rivlin that he was unable to form a coalition.

Under Israeli law, parliament now enters a 21-day period where any lawmaker can try to cobble together a 61-seat majority and become prime minister, leaving the door open for dark horse candidates. Gantz and Netanyahu will likely continue their efforts to reach out to smaller parties and to explore the possibility of a unity government. 

Gantz said he would work over the next three weeks “to form a good government for the citizens of Israel”.

Earlier in the day, right-wing kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman refused to endorse a candidate for prime minister, virtually guaranteeing the country would be forced into a new election.

Initial elections in April were inconclusive and a September re-run of the vote left both Netanyahu and Gantz short of securing the required parliamentary majority to form a government, with Lieberman holding the decisive votes. But after weeks of negotiations, Lieberman said he would not endorse either side.

Lieberman has called for a national unity government between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White. But he has reiterated his opposition to a Likud-led government that would include ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties with religious influence over life in Israel. He is also opposed to an administration headed by Blue and White that would be dependent on support from Arab parties that he described as a "fifth column".

Netanyahu on Wednesday issued a last-minute appeal for compromise, telling right-wing factions that  Israel was “becoming a joke” due to its political deadlock. A third election in a year would be "institutional insanity", he said.

Netanyahu, in office for the past decade, failed to cobble together a government coalition after the inconclusive September election. President Rivlin then tasked Gantz with doing so within 28 days, but this deadline was set to expire at 11:59pm local time on Wednesday.  

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

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