Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu Faces Midnight Deadline to Form New Govt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until the end of Tuesday to form a new coalition government. The prime minister, who is on trial facing corruption charges, was given 28 days to assemble a majority coalition in the 120-seat Parliament after an election on March 23, Israel’s fourth in less than two years.

Netanyahu has struggled to secure a parliamentary majority since March 23 - when elections ended in deadlock for the fourth consecutive time in the past two years. Despite repeated meetings with many of his rivals and unprecedented outreach to the leader of a small Islamist Arab party, Netanyahu has not been able to close a deal during a four-week window.

That window was to expire at midnight, at which point the matter returns to President Reuven Rivlin in the absence of an agreement. A failure to reach a deal would not immediately push Netanyahu out of office. Rivlin could give him an additional two weeks to form a coalition. He could give one of Netanyahu's opponents an opportunity to form a government, or in a final move of desperation, send the matter straight to parliament.

That would give lawmakers a chance to choose one of their own as a prime minister. If all options fail, the country would face another election this fall, meaning months of continued political paralysis. On Monday, Netanyahu said he had offered the head of Yamina, Naftali Bennett, the chance to share the job of prime minister in a rotation, with Bennett holding the post for the first year.

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