Opposition leader and Chairman of Israels Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks to supporters after giving a press conference in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on Thursday.
Opposition leader and Chairman of Israels Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks to supporters after giving a press conference in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on Thursday.
AFP

Tel Aviv

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival, Yair Lapid, with the formation of a new coalition government, a day after the premier failed to do so.

In a statement on Wednesday, Rivlin announced that following a series of consultation talks earlier in the day with leaders of other parties, he came to the conclusion that Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party has "the highest chances" of forming a new government, reports Xinhua news agency.

Lapid has the support of 56 lawmakers, Rivlin said.

He now runs short of five lawmakers to form a majority coalition in Israel's 120-seat Parliament.

During the consultation talks with Rivlin, Naftali Bennet, leader of a seven-seat nationalist party called Yamina, said he is not ruling out a coalition with Lapid.

Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Ra'am, the party of the Islamic movement in Israel which holds four seats in the parliament, said he "will cooperate in a positive way with anyone who will be tasked with forming the government".

Rivlin said he is hopeful that "a stable government" will be established to avoid a fifth round of elections in two years, following a series of inconclusive previous ones and a lingering political deadlock.

Lapid now has 28 days to put together a new governing coalition.

In response to Rivlin's announcement, Lapid said he will work to form a unity government "as soon as possible".

"A unity government is not a compromise, it's our goal. We should form a government that will reflect the fact that we don't hate each other," he said, calling for a government in which "the left and the right work together to handle economical and security challenges".

If Lapid manages to form a government, it could end the long rule of Netanyahu, who has been in power for 15 years.

Netanyahu lost his mandate on Tuesday night after he failed to meet a midnight deadline to put together a government.

Facing a criminal trial of corruption charges in three separate cases, the longest-serving Israeli leader is struggling for his political survival.

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