Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hit a political deadlock with his rival Avigdor Lieberman, who is unwilling to lend him support until his demand of having ultra-Orthodox Jews perform military service is met.
Israel is inching closer to holding another election if its hardline incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t form a coalition government by Wednesday, signalling a severe fracture in the country's heavily polarised politics.
Netanyahu, who is close to becoming Israel's longest-serving prime minister, hasn't made any progress in stitching together a government, a graceless departure from his trait of cobbling political alliances in the past.
If Netanyahu fails to form the new government, the country will have to go through another election.
"A lot can be done in 48 hours. The voters' wishes can be respected, a strong right-wing government can be formed," Netanyahu said, adding that the Israeli parliament on Monday accepted a preliminary motion to dissolve itself if he failed to form the government. Netanyahu has one more day left until the bill gets final approval in a vote scheduled on Wednesday.
US President Donald Trump, Netanyahu’s ally, expressed his readiness to come to the troubled Israeli politician’s help.
"Hoping things will work out with Israel's coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever," Trump wrote on Twitter.
Netanyahu could not persuade former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is leading the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party and has five elected representatives under his belt. Lieberman has earned a reputation for being much more aggressive than Netanyahu when it comes to dealing with Palestinians. He left a previous coalition in late 2018 criticising Netanyahu for agreeing to accept a ceasefire agreement with Hamas after a military escalation in the Gaza Strip.
With Lieberman emerging as a kingmaker after the April elections, the bone of contention between him and Netanyahu is military exemptions granted to ultra-Orthodox Jews. Lieberman insists that like any regular Israeli, ultra-Orthodox Jews should also serve in the military.
Netanyahu is also facing serious corruption charges at home and despite his latest victory in the April elections, many Israelis have criticised him for being a polarising figure. He is currently seeking to enact a law that could bring him immunity from a possible conviction.
“The current regime encourages incitement, subversion and hatred. The basic values of Israeli statehood have been converted into the mannerisms of a French royal house,” Benny Gantz, his main rival, accused during the election campaign.