Israel’s president has handed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the difficult task of trying to form a government from the country’s splintered parliament.
The Development gives the embattled leader a chance to prolong his lengthy term in office while on trial for corruption charges.
In his announcement, President Reuven Rivlin acknowledged that no party leader had the necessary support to form a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset. He also noted that many believe Netanyahu is unfit to serve in light of his legal problems.
Nonetheless, Rivlin said that there was nothing in the law preventing Netanyahu from serving as prime minister. After consulting with the 13 parties in the newly elected parliament, Rivlin said that Netanyahu had the best chance of any candidate of forming a new government.
“No candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset,” Rivlin said. But, he added, Netanyahu has a “slightly higher chance” of being able to.
“I have decided to entrust him with the task,” Rivlin said from Jerusalem. Rivlin added that the choice was “not an easy decision on a moral and ethical basis.”
With that, Rivlin nudged forward the twin dramas over the country’s future and Netanyahu’s fate, giving Israel’s longest-serving premier a fresh chance to try to salvage his career.
Netanyahu now has up to six weeks to try to cobble together a coalition during his trial.
His opportunity comes at the same time as he stands trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He has denounced the accusations against him as a politically motivated witch-hunt.
The leader of the right-wing Likud party now has an initial 28 days to try to secure sufficient backing from other parties in parliament to join him in a governing coalition, after which time he can request a two-week extension. If Netanyahu fails, the task will pass to someone else.