(Photo: Debbie Hill/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he would contact parties in the Knesset on Wednesday about the process of forming a government following the expiration of a 28-day period in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to assemble a ruling coalition.
Netanyahu’s failure sent the process back to Rivlin, who is expected in the coming days to give one of Netanyahu’s opponents a chance to form a government.
Among the likely candidates are Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party finished second behind Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party in March elections, and Naftali Bennett, head of the small religious, nationalist Yamina party.
Rivlin also has the option of asking parliament to select one of its own members as prime minister.
The process of seeking a coalition government was necessitated by the failure of any party to achieve a majority in 120-member Knesset in the March 23 vote, which was Israel’s fourth election in less than two years.
Netanyahu held talks with a number of rivals and made unprecedented overtures to the leader of a small Islamist Arab party during his failed attempt to assemble a majority.
Right-wing and Jewish religious parties, as well as traditional left-wing and centrist parties, have courted parties representing Israel’s estimated 20% Arab minority, potentially empowering them to influence a Cabinet for the first time in decades.
The 71-year-old Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009 after holding the same office for three years in the 1990s. He has been fighting to remain in office through two years of political deadlock due to the inconclusive elections.
He is on trial facing criminal corruption charges and has denied any wrongdoing.