Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gives PM Benjamin Netanyahu up to six weeks to form a coalition, and If he fails, his main challenger Benny Gantz will likely be given a chance. Gantz rules out joining government with PM facing indictment.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at the start of his Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, in occupied Jerusalem on September 23, 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at the start of his Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, in occupied Jerusalem on September 23, 2019. (Reuters)

Israel's president tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday with assembling a new government after power-sharing talks with his strongest rival, Benny Gantz, failed following an inconclusive election.

"I have decided to give you, sir, the opportunity to assemble a government," President Reuven Rivlin told Netanyahu at a nomination ceremony.

Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, and Israel's longest-serving leader, still has no clear path to a fifth term after emerging from the September 17 ballot, the second this year, short of a parliamentary majority.

Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a coalition and can ask Rivlin for a two-week extension if necessary. Netanyahu's failure to clinch victory in a ballot in April led to last week's election and left him politically weakened.

Gantz rules out joining govt

However, Gantz ruled out his Blue and White alliance joining a government led by a prime minister facing serious indictment, a reference to Netanyahu's legal situation.

"Blue and White led by me will not agree to sit in a government with a leader against whom stands a severe indictment," Gantz said in a statement.

New countdown 

In the new countdown, Likud has the pledged support of 55 legislators in the 120-member parliament, against 54 for Gantz's centrist Blue and White Party. The two parties failed to reach a coalition deal in talks launched on Tuesday.

Former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a possible kingmaker, has been keeping his far-right Yisrael Beitenu party on the fence since the September 17 ballot, citing differences with both Likud's and Blue and White's political allies. 

Source: AP