Netanyahu blames Bennett for failure to form coalition government

End of an era? Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, was unable to cobble together a coalition in order to form a Likud-led government and he’s blaming the Yemina leader.

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

The period of 28 days allotted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government expired Tuesday at midnight.

Shortly before the midnight deadline, Netanyahu informed President Reuven Rivlin that he was unable to form a government.

Netanyahu has been struggling to secure the 61 seats necessary to form a coalition since the March 23rd election – the fourth within two years to end in deadlock. Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most seats of any other – 30 in the 120-member Knesset, with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid coming in second at 17 seats.

In his most recent attempt to secure a Likud-led government, Netanyahu offered the head of Yemina party, Naftali Bennett, the chance to share the job of prime minister in a rotation, with Bennett holding the post for the first year. Lapid, too, had extended that offer to the Yemina leader, who has a mere seven seats but ended up as a possible kingmaker, or even king.

The prime minister released a statement Tuesday evening in which he blamed Bennett for his failure to secure a coalition.

“Due to Bennett’s refusal to promise to only form a government with the Right, which would have definitely led to the formation of a government with additional MKs joining, the prime minister has returned the mandate to the president,” the statement said.

Netanyahu’s attempt to form a government was especially challenging as he was relying on the Arab Ra’am party for support. Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party, which was to be part of the Netanyahu government, refused to sit together with Ra’am.

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, having served in 1996-1999 and then again since 2009 – for a total of 15 years.

On Wednesday morning, Rivlin will contact the parties represented in the Knesset regarding the continuation of the process of forming a government. It is expected that he will give Yair the opportunity.