Benjamin Netanyahu Rival Tells Him to Concede Failure As Government Formation Deadline Passes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was told by a rival to concede failure ahead of a midnight deadline on Tuesday to form a new coalition government that has passed, the Associated Press reported.

Netanyahu's Likud party has been unable to secure a parliamentary majority since late March and he failed Tuesday in forming a government after a committee did not hold a vote on Netanyahu's proposal to have direct elections for the position of prime minister.

"It is now your duty to think of the country, to look honestly at reality and concede your failure," rival Benny Gantz said in comments directed towards Netanyahu after saying he "failed again" in forming a government.

Although the midnight deadline has passed, it is up to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to decide whether the deadline to form a new coalition can be extended for Netanyahu, according to the Associated Press.

He had four weeks to secure a deal and if one is not reached, it would not immediately oust him from his position of Prime Minister.

Netanyahu could potentially receive a two week extension from Rivlin to form a new government.

Rivals of Netanyahu have been discussing assembling a possible government of their own.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony honouring Israel's fallen soldiers at the Mount Herzel military cemetery in Jerusalem during Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day) on April 14, 2021. On Tuesday, Netanyahu failed to establish a new government ahead of a midnight deadline, the Associated Press reported. Maya Alleruzzo/AFP via Getty Images

Netanyahu faced the midnight deadline to put together a new coalition government. If he does not, he will be looking at the possibility of leading his Likud party into the opposition for the first time in 12 years.

Elections ended in deadlock on March 23 for the fourth consecutive time in the past two years. Despite repeated meetings with many of his rivals and unprecedented outreach to the leader of a small Islamist Arab party, Netanyahu has not been able to close a deal.

Rivlin could give one of Netanyahu's opponents an opportunity to form a government, or in a final move of desperation, send the matter straight to parliament.

That would give lawmakers a chance to choose one of their own as a prime minister. If all options fail, the country would face another election this fall, meaning months of continued political paralysis.

In the March 23 election, Netanyahu's Likud emerged as the largest single party, with 30 seats in the 120-member parliament. But to form a government, he needs to have the support of a 61-seat majority.

That task has been complicated in large part by members of his own religious and nationalist base.

The New Hope party, led by a former Netanyahu aide, refuses to serve under the prime minister because of deep personal differences. Religious Zionism, a far-right party that espouses an openly racist platform, supports Netanyahu but has ruled out serving in a government with the Arab partners he has courted. Yamina, another right-wing party led by a former Netanyahu aide, has refused to commit to either him or his opponents.

On Monday, Netanyahu said he had offered the head of Yamina, Naftali Bennett, the chance to share the job of prime minister in a rotation, with Bennett holding the post for the first year.

Bennett responded: "I never asked Netanyahu to be prime minister. I asked to form a government. Unfortunately, he does not have that."

Looming over Netanyahu has been his ongoing corruption trial. Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and bribery in a series of scandals. The trial has moved into the witness phase, with embarrassing testimony accusing him of trading favors with a powerful media mogul. Netanyahu denies the charges.

In recent days, he has appeared increasingly frustrated, coddling potential partners one day and then lashing out at them with vitriol the next. Last week's deadly stampede at a religious festival, in which 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews were killed, has only complicated his task by creating an unwelcome diversion and calls for an official investigation into possible negligence on his watch.

Netanyahu has also suffered a series of embarrassing — and uncharacteristic — defeats in parliament.

Earlier this month his opponents gained control of the powerful Arrangements Committee, which controls the legislative agenda until a new government is formed. Last week, he was forced to abandon his appointment of a crony as the interim justice minister, just before the Supreme Court appeared set to strike down the move.

Despite all of Netanyahu's vulnerabilities, it remains unclear whether his opponents can form an alternative government. The opposition includes a vast spectrum of parties that have little in common except for their animosity toward Netanyahu.

Since Netanyahu failed to put together a coalition by midnight, he will do his utmost to prevent his opponents from reaching an agreement in the coming weeks.

That would keep him in office until the next election, allowing him to battle his corruption charges from the perch of the prime minister's office and giving him yet another chance to win a new term, along with possible immunity from prosecution.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
In this Wednesday, April 14, 2021 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Memorial Day ceremony at the military cemetery at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem. Netanyahu faces a midnight deadline on Tuesday, May 4, to put together a new coalition government. If he fails, he faces the possibility of leading his Likud party into the opposition for the first time in 12 years. Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo

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