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Netanyahu faces midnight deadline to form new government

May 29, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political future is at stake as he has until midnight to form a coalition government. If the premier fails, he is expected to push parliament to hold snap elections.

Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu
Image: Getty Images/AFP/G. Tibbon

Negotiations on forming Israel's new government are coming down to the wire, with newly reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trying to form a coalition government before a midnight deadline.

Netanyahu was reelected prime minister on April 9, and he has been trying to form a coalition government during six weeks of difficult negotiations.

Coalition negotiations are stuck on Netanyahu's former Likud party ally and aide Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu faction. Bringing in Lieberman's party is essential for the Netanyahu to form a government with a parliamentary majority.

Lieberman's primary condition for joining Netanyahu's coalition is the passage of legislation that would end an exemption on ultra-Orthodox Jews enlisting in the Israeli army.

Read more: Ultranationalists to play kingmakers after Israeli election

Lieberman's secular right-wing party has clashed with orthodox and religious parties in Netanyahu's alliance over passing the conscription bill without changes.

"I'm not vindictive. I'm not on a vendetta or seeking to bring down the prime minister," said Lieberman. "We have no intention to give up our principles and the commitments we gave our voters."

The Knesset debates 

If Netanyahu fails to form a government by the deadline, procedure would call for Israeli President Reuven Rivlii to let another member of the Knesset, either from the prime minister's right-wing Likud party or from the opposition, to try and form a government.

Read more: Israel faces old reality of Benjamin Netanyahu victory anew

This would be a political nightmare for Netanyahu, who would lose control of appointing a government. The premier is trying to avoid this by pushing for the Knesset to approve a motion to dissolve and for Israel to hold snap elections. Netanyahu needs 61 votes in parliament to approve a new election.

The Knesset is debating a bill that would dissolve parliament and lead to a second election. The first two readings of the bill passed earlier this week.

Consequences for Netanyahu

If Netanyahu fails to form a government, he could possibly face indictment on corruption charges in the coming months.

Read more: Israelis protest plan to give Netanyahu immunity, limit Supreme Court

There have been reports that new elections would make it more difficult for Netanyahu to get legislation passed that would grant him immunity from prosecution. 

Netanyahu: Allegations are 'unprecedented witch hunt'

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wmr/msh  (AP,Reuters, AFP, dpa)