On Wednesday, the Israeli president picked Yair Lapid, a centrist politician and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sturdiest challenger, to try to form a new government, but his path to triumph was still undefined.
Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu, has been fighting to hold onto office through four inconclusive elections since 2019 and corruption allegations that he denies.
President Reuven Rivlin, in a televised address announcing his choice of Lapid, said the former finance minister had the pledged support of 56 of the parliament’s 120 members, still short of a majority. “It is clear that parliament member Yair Lapid could form a government that has the confidence of the Knesset, despite there being many difficulties”, Rivlin said.
In a statement accepting the nomination, Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party, said he aimed to establish a government of the left, right and center “that will reflect the fact that we do not hate one another”.
Yet Lapid ruled out serving in a government with Netanyahu, citing the recent criminal indictment against the prime minister.
Appearing to hold out hope he could still stay in power, Netanyahu appealed to ultranationalist Naftali Bennett to join him and form a ‘solid right-wing bloc’ controlling 59 seats in parliament, a number still short of a majority.
An embrace by Bennett, of the Yamina party, would persuade other right-wing legislators currently supporting Lapid, Netanyahu said in remarks following Lapid’s nomination.
“It’s a simple truth: this (a Lapid-led coalition) will be a dangerous left-wing government,” said Netanyahu, who last lost an election before the turn of the century.
The most recent legislative election on March 23, held while Netanyahu was also on trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, yielded no majority for the incumbent or for a loose alliance of rivals from across the political spectrum aiming to topple him.