Israeli president gives Netanyahu, not Gantz, mandate to form new gov’t

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu four weeks to form a coalition government, saying he has a better chance to assemble a working alliance than opponent Benny Gantz.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media after President Reuven Rivlin gave him the mandate to form the next government at the president’s residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Photo by Debbie Hill

Rivlin gave Netanyahu the directive after meeting with both leaders, who won the majority of seats in last week’s Knesset elections. Gantz’s Blue and White Party has a one-seat edge over Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

“My inability to form a government is slightly less than that of Gantz,” Netanyahu said, adding that the possibility of war with Iran and peace with Palestinians requires a working government.

If Netanyahu fails to assemble an alliance, as he did after the April elections, a new Knesset could choose a candidate.

Earlier Wednesday, it was revealed by an official election tally the Likud Party had gained a seat in the Knesset.

The additional seat gives the Likud Party 32 in the Knesset, one shy of the total for the Blue and White Party. Although his party doesn’t hold a majority, Netanyahu has been endorsed as the preferred prime minister by 55 lawmakers. Gantz, his biggest rival, won support among 54 lawmakers.

The updated count took away a legislative seat from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party.

Neither Gantz nor Netanyahu reached the required 61-seats to form a working government.

Authorities said they’re still investigating reports of suspicious activity and irregularities from last week’s vote.

ByNicholas Sakelaris