Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday reluctantly tasked embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to form the next government following consultations with other political parties.
Rivlin said that since no candidate has a real chance of forming a new government, he has decided to task Netanyahu, Chairman of the Likud party, as he had received the most endorsements.
Netanyahu, 71, was endorsed by his Likud party, with 30 seats, Shas, with 9; United Torah Judaism, 7; and Religious Zionism, 6.
Lapid was recommended as prime minister by 45 lawmakers (Yesh Atid 17, Blue and White 8, Yisrael Beytenu 7, Labor 7, Meretz 6), and Naftali Bennett by the seven members of his own Yamina party.
Israel witnessed an unprecedented fourth general election in less than two years on March 23.
But it again failed to break the political impasse with inconclusive results.
Netanyahu won the endorsement of 52 lawmakers in the new Knesset, falling way short of a 61-seat majority in the 120-member Parliament.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid was recommended by 45 lawmakers with three parties refusing to recommend anyone for the premiership.
“No candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset,” Rivlin said adding that “if the law allowed he would have given the decision back to the Knesset to resolve”.
Acknowledging the “moral dilemma” faced in tasking a lawmaker under criminal trial, the president said that it was not an easy choice for him.
“This is not an easy decision on a moral and ethical basis, in my mind,” he said.
“And I fear for my country. But I am doing what is required of me as the President of the State of Israel, according to the law and to the ruling of the court, and realising the will of the sovereign – the Israeli people,” he added.
The Israeli President emphasised that the principal consideration for him was “which candidate has the best chance of forming a government that has the confidence of the new Knesset”.
“I know the position held by many, that the President should not give the role to a candidate that is facing criminal charges,” Rivlin stressed, noting that this was “not an easy decision”.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust and had to be present at a court hearing on Tuesday while the President discussed government formation with political parties.
The Israeli Prime Minister has denied any wrongdoing and has stubbornly refused to give into the demands of resignation.