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Netanyahu misses deadline to form cabinet, putting his rule in doubt

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has tasked opposition leader Yair Lapid with forming a coalition cabinet, dumping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who passed a deadline to secure enough allies to form his own cabinet.

In March, embattled Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won the most seats in parliamentary elections, a mere 30, not enough to form a cabinet outright, and Netanyahu was tasked by Rivlin with forming a coalition cabinet within 28 days.

He missed that deadline on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Rivlin tapped Lapid, a former television host and finance minister whose centrist Yesh Atid party came in second in the March vote by securing 17 seats at the 120-member Israeli parliament.

Like Netanyahu, Lapid now has a 28-day deadline to form a coalition cabinet.

The Israeli regime has held four parliamentary elections just in the past two years, all of them inconclusive. If Lapid also fails to form a coalition cabinet in time, an unprecedented fifth election would seem inevitable.

He will face tough negotiations as Netanyahu, the longest-serving Israeli premier, who has been in power consecutively since 2009, would seek to block his path to the high office, as he successfully did with Lapid’s predecessor, Benny Gantz.

In acknowledgement of those troubles, Rivlin said in a statement that the regime had “been caught in a maze — if not a political crisis — for some time now.”

Lapid, meanwhile, welcomed the decision.

Although he claims to support negotiations with the Palestinians, Lapid describes himself as a “security hawk.”

One potential figure who can help Lapid reach a 61-seat majority, although with seven seats of his own only, is Naftali Bennett, the leader of the hawkish Yamina party, the far-right former settler leader and minister of military affairs.

Netanyahu had said he suggested a deal in which Bennett would become prime minister for a year and then hand power back. But the suggestion was swiftly rejected. A similar “rotation” deal between Bennett and Lapid is a possibility.

During the past four weeks, Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for criminal corruption, had hoped to convince both allies and foes to join him forming a coalition cabinet, but despite repeated meetings, negotiations proved difficult due to the makeup of the Israeli parliament.

The current political stalemate in the Israeli regime is largely blamed on Netanyahu, with some of his allies saying they would not serve under a prime minister who is on trial for corruption.

Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three long-running cases.

Protests against the Israeli prime minister — now popularly referred to as “crime minister” — have been held in the occupied territories for months, with protesters demanding his resignation.


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