Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first shot at forming a coalition government after another inconclusive national election in March. Netanyahu's 28-day window closed at midnight Tuesday, and Rivlin will meet Wednesday with the two opposition leaders with the best odds to replace Netanyahu as prime minister, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu ally.
Lapid, whose centrist party won 17 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, is considered the most likely to lead an anti-Netanyahu governing coalition, though he would need the support of Bennett, whose religious, nationalist Yamina party won seven seats. There have been inconclusive talks to form a government where the two men rotate as prime minister. Bennett "would serve first in an effort to placate right-wing Likud voters and draw additional right-wingers to join their government," The Wall Street Journal reports.
If Lapid gets the nod from Rivlin, he would have 28 days to put together a coalition of disparate parties whose only unified goal is ending Netanyahu's 12 straight years in power. If Lapid fails, Israel will head to its fifth election since 2019. That's Netanyahu's best hope as he stands trial on a host of corruption-related charges, analysts say. "His dream right now is to keep going," Tel Aviv University political scientist Emmanuel Navon tells the Journal. "Not only a fifth election, but maybe a sixth, or seventh or eighth."
Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader, cast far and wide in trying to form a government, including offering Bennett first rotation as prime minister in a power-sharing deal. But Bennett rebuffed his offer Monday and the right-wing parties in his fold refused to form a government with an Arab party Netanyahu needed to push him over 60 seats. He has also burned a lot of bridges. "A critical mass has been reached," political analyst Ben Caspit wrote in the Maariv newspaper. "Nobody believes a single word he says; there isn't a single sap in the entire political establishment who will agree to any arrangement with him. He is going to need a miracle to create a new rabbit."