Israeli opposition leader tapped to form new goverment
JERUSALEM — Israel’s president on Wednesday tapped opposition leader Yair Lapid to form a new government — a step that could lead to the end of the lengthy rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Reuven Rivlin announced his decision on live television a day after Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by a midnight deadline.
Rivlin spent the day consulting with all of the parties elected to Israel’s parliament and announced late Wednesday that he believes Lapid has the best chance of forming a coalition.
Rivlin said that based on the recommendations, “it is clear that Knesset member Yair Lapid has a chance to form a government that will earn the confidence of the Knesset, even if the difficulties are many.”
Lapid, whose late father was a Cabinet minister and who himself is a veteran journalist and politician, now has four weeks to reach a deal with potential partners.
In a statement, Lapid said he would move quickly to form a broadbased unity government “as soon as possible, so we can get to work for the people of Israel.”
“We need a government that will reflect the fact that we don’t hate one another,” he said. “A government in which left, right and center will work together to tackle the economic and security challenges we face. A government that will show that our differences are a source of strength, not weakness.”
While Lapid faces a difficult task, he now has the chance to make history by ending the reign of Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Netanyahu has held the post for a total of 15 years, including the past 12.
“It looks like, perhaps within a few days or a few weeks, we might have a functioning coalition that will not include Mr. Netanyahu. This will be a groundbreaking change,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think tank.
He acknowledged, however, that “a fifth consecutive election is still, unfortunately, a real possibility.”
Lapid, 57, entered parliament in 2013 after a successful career as a newspaper columnist, TV anchor and author. His new Yesh Atid party ran a successful rookie campaign, landing Lapid the powerful post of finance minister.
But he and Netanyahu did not get along, and the coalition quickly crumbled. Yesh Atid has been in the opposition since 2015 elections.