Israel’s president selects Netanyahu opponent Lapid to form a government

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gesticulates as he delivers a speech to supporters after elections were announced at his Likud Party headquarters in Jerusalem in Israel’s general election on March 24, 2021. REUTERS / Ammar Awad

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s president on Wednesday selected Yair Lapid, a centrist politician and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strongest rival, to try to form a new government, but his path to success was still uncertain.

Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu (71), has been fighting for office through four inconclusive elections since 2019.

President Reuven Rivlin said in a televised address announcing his election of Lapid that the former finance minister had pledged support from 56 of the 120 members of parliament who still lack a majority.

“It became clear that Yair Lapid has the option to form a government that gets parliamentary approval, but there are many difficulties,” said Rivlin.

The latest March 23 vote, in which Netanyahu is also on trial on corruption charges, which he denies, failed to find a majority in favor of the prime minister or a loose alliance of rivals across the political spectrum aiming to overthrow him.

A 28-day coalition mandate expired at midnight after Netanyahu failed to negotiate terms with potential right-wing partners, paving the way for Rivlin to reassign the task to another MP.

Lapid also has 28 days to try and form a coalition.

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