TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he could not form a new government after President Reuven Rivlin asked him to try in the wake of a deadlocked election.
Netanyahu’s decision to cut short his efforts leaves the country’s political future — and his own — uncertain.
The opportunity to form a stable government will now fall to his rival Benny Gantz, who leads the main opposition Blue and White party.
Rivlin tweeted that “the president intends to transfer the mandate to Chairman of Kachol Lavan MK Benny Gantz and make available the 28 days allocated under the law.”
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
The prime minister needed the support of at least 61 seats, but his right-wing block only had 54 and Netanyahu wasn’t able to get any left-wing party to join him.
Netanyahu blamed his failure to form a government on Gantz.
“Tonight, I announced that I was returning the mandate to the cabinet assembly,” Netanyahu said in a video he posted on Facebook.
“That’s what the people want. This is also what Israel needs in the face of growing security challenges. Over the past few weeks, I have made every effort to bring my son Gantz to the negotiating table to prevent new elections. Unfortunately, time after time, he simply refused.”
After inconclusive election results left him short of the governing majority needed to extend his decadelong hold on Israeli politics, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party entered talks to form a national unity government with the centrist Blue and White.
But those talks appear to have gone nowhere.
Gantz — who is a former army chief of staff — has publicly resisted the idea of allying with Netanyahu, citing looming corruption charges against him.
If Gantz fails to form a government, Israel might have to hold its third national election of 2019.
Paul Goldman reported from Tel Aviv, and Max Burman from London.
Saphora Smith, David K. Li and The Associated Press contributed.