Netanyahu Plans to Make Last Ditch Effort to Form Government

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a last ditch effort to form a government after elections this month produced a parliamentary stalemate, his Likud party said in a text message.

Talks on Sunday morning with the rival Blue and White party to form a unity government ended unsuccessfully. Netanyahu might return his mandate from President Reuven Rivlin if negotiations fail, Likud has said.

Rivlin would likely turn to Benny Gantz, the former general and leader of Blue and White, to try to form a government. The president’s attempts to glue the two big parties together in a power-sharing deal haven’t worked so far, but their negotiating teams and leaders will meet again on Wednesday.

Israel has held two inconclusive elections in less than a year, resulting in political paralysis that may continue through the end of the year at a time of mounting diplomatic and regional security challenges. Netanyahu is also facing the prospect of being brought to trial on corruption charges. His legal woes may have given him an added incentive to stay in power, amid speculation he’s been seeking to pass a law that would shield an incumbent leader from prosecution.

Netanyahu’s Likud party slightly trailed Blue and White in the Sept. 17 election, but he had a slim lead when the factions were asked to recommend their choice for premier to Rivlin. Nearly two weeks on, little progress has been made in resolving the political stalemate.

To assemble a majority in parliament, Netanyahu’s options are to secure a power-sharing pact, peel off lawmakers from the rival camp, or win the endorsement of former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Liberman’s refusal to join Netanyahu’s coalition after April’s election led to the do-over vote, and he has called for a unity government. Netanyahu resisted Liberman’s calls to cut ultra-Orthodox military draft exemptions and has courted religious parties in the country.

Any new talks will be clouded by a crucial hearing this week into the corruption allegations against the premier, which have undermined the last three years of his tenure and are complicating his bid to stay in power.

Gantz has said that Blue and White won’t sit in a government whose potential leader is facing a serious indictment.

Netanyahu allegedly received expensive gifts from wealthy businessmen and is accused of reshaping the country’s communications landscape to benefit a media mogul in return for sympathetic coverage. He’s denied the allegations and said they are politically motivated.

His hearing before Israel’s attorney general, Avihai Mandelblit, is scheduled to begin on Oct. 2. Israeli television reported that Mandelblit aims to deliver a verdict some time in November.

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