The 28-day deadline that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin issued to Likud Party leader and current caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government is set to expire on Tuesday evening.
If Netanyahu fails to gather enough support from other parties, Rivlin will task Yair Lapid, a member of the Knesset and leader of the center-left Future Party (Yesh Atid), with forming the government within 28 days.
Government formation requires the support of at least 61 of the 120 members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), something Netanyahu is currently struggling to achieve.
Netanyahu, currently the country’s longest-serving prime minister, has failed to gain the support of the right-wing New Hope Party led by former Likud leader Gideon Sa'ar.
Furthermore, the leader of the right-wing New Right (Yamina) Party, Naftali Bennett, has not yet made up his mind on whether to support Netanyahu or to support Lapid, the next in line to form the government if Netanyahu fails.
According to Israeli law, in the event that the second person tasked with government formation fails, the Israeli president will refer the task to the Knesset, which must make a formal recommendation of a deputy with the support of at least 61 deputies or call new elections.
As Netanyahu’s deadline to form government closes in, contacts among the Israeli right have intensified.
On Monday, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation reported stark differences between senior Jewish clerics over forming a government with the support of Arab representatives.
Many voices within the Likud have urged Netanyahu to invite the United Arab List (Raam) headed by Mansour Abbas, an Islamist party seen by analysts as kingmaker, to be part of the government formation.
While Netanyahu is believed to be open to that idea, fellow partners in the government headed by the Religious Zionism Party have rejected the move.
Meanwhile, opposition parties were unable to reach an agreement on forming an alternative government. However, their efforts to form a government are expected to intensify if the task is transferred to Lapid in case Netanyahu fails to beat the deadline.
On March 23, Israel held its fourth election in two years.
The country is poised to go for a fifth election soon if political deadlock persists.