San Francisco Chronicle
Opposition leader asked to form new government
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.