Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters at his campaign headquarters in Jerusalem on March 24, 2021.

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s president on Tuesday handed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the difficult task of trying to form a new government, giving the embattled Israeli leader a chance to extend his lengthy term in office.

But with the newly elected parliament deeply divided and the prime minister on trial for corruption charges, Mr. Netanyahu had little to celebrate.

He now has up to six weeks to lure his political foes into a coalition, an effort that appears to have slim odds of success. At the same time, those opponents will be working to form an alternative government that could end his 12-year reign.

Story continues below advertisement

In a meeting with members of his Likud party, Mr. Netanyahu struck a statesmanlike tone, saying he would be the prime minister of all of Israel’s citizens, Jewish and Arab, religious and secular.

“We will take care of everyone,” he said, vowing to “take Israel out of the cycle of recurring elections and to establish a strong government for all citizens of Israel.”

President Reuven Rivlin turned to Netanyahu in the wake of Israel’s fourth inconclusive election in the past two years.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday announced his decision to mandate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government after an inconclusive election, giving Netanyahu a new lease on his political life. Reuters

In a post-election ritual, Mr. Rivlin consulted Monday with each of the 13 parties elected to the Knesset, or parliament, in hopes of finding a consensus on a candidate for prime minister. But neither Mr. Netanyahu, nor his main rival, Yair Lapid, received the endorsement of a majority of lawmakers.

As he announced his decision, an anguished Rivlin said no candidate had the support needed to form a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset. He also noted that there are many misgivings about Mr. Netanyahu remaining in office while on trial.

Yet he said there was nothing in the law preventing Mr. Netanyahu from continuing as prime minister and said he believed that Mr. Netanyahu had a better chance than his rivals of cobbling together a coalition.

“This is not an easy decision on a moral and ethical basis,” Mr. Rivlin said. “The state of Israel is not to be taken for granted. And I fear for my country.”

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Netanyahu did not attend Tuesday’s announcement, as is tradition, and later Mr. Rivlin did not appear with Mr. Netanyahu in the usual photo of the new parliament’s swearing-in – moves local media interpreted as a show of the president’s unhappiness with the situation.

Mr. Netanyahu now has an initial period of 28 days to put together a coalition, a period that Mr. Rivlin could extend for an additional two weeks.

Mr. Netanyahu has received the endorsement of 52 lawmakers, more than his rivals, but still short of the 61-seat majority needed to form a government.

Securing the support of nine more lawmakers will not be easy. Mr. Netanyahu will use his formidable powers of persuasion, coupled with generous offers of powerful government ministries, to court his potential partners.

Mr. Netanyahu will likely require the backing of Raam, a small Arab Islamist party. Raam’s leader, Mansour Abbas, has left the door open to co-operating with Netanyahu if he aids Israel’s Arab sector, which has long suffered from crime, discrimination and poverty.

But one of Mr. Netanyahu’s allies, the Religious Zionist party, has an openly racist platform and refuses to serve in a government with Arab partners. Mr. Netanyahu could appeal to the rabbis who serve as the party’s spiritual guides in hopes of changing minds.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Netanyahu will also likely need the support of Yamina, a religious nationalist party led by former ally turned rival, Naftali Bennett, who also has been cool to an alliance with Arab parties.

Mr. Bennett, a former aide to Mr. Netanyahu, promised Tuesday to negotiate in “good faith,” but made no promises to his former mentor.

Mr. Netanyahu’s last hope will be to try to lure “defectors” from other opposition parties. For now, however, Mr. Netanyahu’s opponents have vowed to stand firm, especially after the painful experience of the previous government.

Following elections last year, Mr. Netanyahu and his main rival at the time, Benny Gantz, agreed to an “emergency” government to confront the coronavirus crisis. Their partnership was plagued by infighting and collapsed in half a year, triggering the March 23 election.

“The chances of Netanyahu to form a government, as it seems right now, are quite low,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think-tank.

Looming over the negotiations will be Mr. Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which resumed this week with testimony from the first of a string of witnesses to testify against him.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals. He denies the charges and this week compared the case to “an attempted coup.”

Mr. Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, acknowledged Tuesday that the law left Mr. Rivlin “no choice,” but nonetheless said that tapping Mr. Netanyahu was a “shameful disgrace that tarnishes Israel.”

Mr. Lapid has offered an alternative: a power-sharing arrangement with Mr. Bennett that would see the two men rotate between the prime minister’s job. They are expected to hold intense negotiations in the coming weeks.

Mr. Plesner, a former Knesset member, said the partnership between Mr. Bennett and Mr. Lapid has “a reasonable likelihood of materializing.”

Mr. Lapid would be able to deliver his key campaign promise of ousting Mr. Netanyahu, while Mr. Bennett, whose party has just seven seats, would be the first to be prime minister.

“For both of them, it’s a very lucrative deal,” Mr. Plesner said.

Story continues below advertisement

Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at Israel’s Hebrew University, said that Mr. Netanyahu’s opponents who share his hard-line ideology, including Mr. Bennett, would prefer to see him fail before banding together against him.

“Otherwise, they would’ve been thought of, from their own right-wing base perspective as traitors,” she said.

The new parliament takes office at a time of deep polarization in Israeli society. Last month’s election was seen as a referendum on Mr. Netanyahu’s divisive leadership style, and the result was continued deadlock.

Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters view him as a global statesman who is uniquely suited to leading the country. His opponents accuse him of pushing the country through repeated elections in hopes of producing a parliament that will grant him immunity from criminal prosecution.

In a sign of those divisions, about 100 protesters hoisted LGBT pride flags and a mock submarine in a noisy demonstration outside the Knesset as the new parliament was sworn in. The pride flags were aimed at the pro-Netanyahu Religious Zionists, whose members are openly homophobic, while the submarine points to a graft scandal involving the purchase of German subs.

As the new Knesset was sworn into office, Mr. Rivlin appealed for unity. It was the last time Mr. Rivlin will address such a gathering, and the outgoing president, who leaves office this summer, appeared emotional.

Story continues below advertisement

“If we do not learn and find a model of partnership that will allow us to live here together, out of mutual respect for each other, out of commitment to each other, and genuine solidarity, our national resilience will be in real danger,” he said.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies