Eight months and counting, Israel’s election deadlock
Israel is headed for a third general election in a year after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his centrist challenger Benny Gantz both proved unable to form a government.
Here is a recap of the eight-month saga.
– April impasse –
At April 9 polls, Netanyahu is hoping to extend his 13 years as prime minister, despite corruption allegations.
His main challenger is ex-military chief Gantz.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance both win 35 seats.
Parliament chooses Netanyahu, who has support from smaller right-wing parties, to take first turn at trying to form a majority government.
But after weeks of political bargaining, he is unable to command a majority in the 120-seat parliament, blocked by ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman who refuses to budge on a demand for ultra-Orthodox Jews to be required to perform military service.
The deadline expires and parliament agrees to hold a new election.
– September second round –
After voting ends on September 17, exit surveys show a neck-and-neck race between the parties of Netanyahu and Gantz.
Lieberman calls for a unity government between the two and his own nationalist Yisrael Beitenu.
Netanyahu says he is prepared for such a coalition but warns against “a dangerous anti-Zionist government,” a reference to the inclusion of Arab parties.
In a surprise bid on September 19, he proposes a unity government to Gantz, who replies he would have to be the prime minister.
– Deadlock confirmed –
In a dramatic first, the mainly Arab Joint List — on track to become the third-largest bloc in parliament — says on September 22 it will endorse Gantz, but only to force out Netanyahu.
Complete official results released on September 25 confirm a deadlock, putting Gantz’s party at 33 seats against Likud’s 32.
Even with their respective allies, neither can get the 61 seats they need for a majority.
– Netanyahu fails –
On September 25, President Reuven Rivlin tasks Netanyahu with forming a government within 28 days.
Gantz refuses to join Netanyahu, citing his potential indictment on corruption charges.
On October 21, Netanyahu announces he has failed. Rivlin hands the task to Gantz.
– Gantz gives up –
On November 8, Netanyahu appoints as defence minister Naftali Bennett and says his New Right party will join Likud.
This gives Netanyahu’s party 35 seats — two ahead of Gantz’s Blue and White.
On November 20, Gantz informs Rivlin hours before his deadline is up that he too has been unable to form a government.
The president, determined to avoid a third election, hands the task to parliament with a three-week deadline.
While it could choose any member of parliament to form a government, Netanyahu and Gantz remain the only realistic contenders.
– Netanyahu charged –
On November 21, the attorney general charges Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
He rejects the allegations, saying it is an attempt to remove him from government.
– Third round looms –
On December 11, ahead of parliament’s midnight deadline, lawmakers start voting on a bill that would call a new election on March 2.