San Francisco Chronicle

Opposition leader asked to form new government

- By Josef Federman Josef Federman is an Associated Press writer.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s president on Wednesday tapped opposition leader Yair Lapid to form a new government — a step that could lead to the end of the lengthy rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Reuven Rivlin announced his decision on live television a day after Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by a midnight deadline.

Rivlin spent the day consulting with all of the parties elected to Israel’s parliament and announced late Wednesday that he believes Lapid has the best chance of forming a coalition.

Rivlin said that based on the recommenda­tions, “it is clear that Knesset member Yair Lapid has a chance to form a government that will earn the confidence of the Knesset, even if the difficulti­es are many.”

Lapid, whose late father was a Cabinet minister and who himself is a veteran journalist and politician, now has four weeks to reach a deal with potential partners.

“We need a government that will reflect the fact that we don’t hate one another,” Lapid said in a statement. “A government in which left, right and center will work together to tackle the economic and security challenges we face.”

While Lapid faces a difficult task, he now has the chance to make history by ending the reign of Netanyahu, Israel’s longestser­ving prime minister. Netanyahu has held the post for a total of 15 years, including the past 12.

Lapid, 57, entered parliament in 2013 after a successful career as a newspaper columnist, TV anchor and author. His new Yesh Atid party ran a successful rookie campaign, landing Lapid the powerful post of finance minister.

Yesh Atid has been in the opposition since 2015 elections. The party is popular with secular, middleclas­s voters and has been critical of Netanyahu’s close ties with ultraOrtho­dox parties and said the prime minister should step down while on trial for corruption charges.

Elections held March 23 ended in deadlock for the fourth consecutiv­e time in the past two years. Despite repeated meetings with many of his rivals and unpreceden­ted outreach to the leader of a small Islamist Arab party, Netanyahu was unable to close a deal.

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