Israel’s president said he was bound by law to give Benjamin Netanyahu the task of forming the country’s next government even though he is facing criminal charges.
Reuven Rivlin said no party leader has a realistic chance of building a working majority but that Netanyahu was supported by 52 MKs, more than any other.
A minimum of 61 seats are needed for a coalition in the Knesset.
“No candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset,” Rivlin said.
He said he would have given the decision back to the chamber if the law allowed him to, adding: “I know the position held by many, that the president should not give the role to a candidate that is facing criminal charges.
“Benjamin Netanyahu has a slightly higher chance of forming a government. I have decided to entrust him with the task of doing so.
Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, is supported by 45 MKs while all seven members of the right-wing Yamina party endorsed their leader, Naftali Bennett.
On Tuesday afternoon Bennett avoided committing his party to either bloc, saying only that the resulting government must reflect the “national consensus”.
“This is the will of the people: The establishment of a stable right-wing, nationalist government,” he said.
He said he would approach forthcoming negotiations with Netanyahu with “goodwill”.
The March 23 election created two large blocs in the Knesset, one supportive of Netanyahu and one opposed to him, but neither controlling enough seats for a majority.
Yamina and the two Israeli Arab parties, the Joint List and the United Arab List, have the potential to be kingmakers after winning enough seats to tip the balance for either faction.
Netanyahu, whose trial on corruption allegations began this week, denies all charges. He says prosecutors are trying to force him from office.
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