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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Netanyahu Faces Midnight Deadline to Form New Government

By VOA News May 04, 2021

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until the end of Tuesday to form a new government.

The prime minister, who is on trial facing corruption charges, was given 28 days to assemble a majority coalition in the 120-seat Parliament after an election on March 23, Israel's fourth in less than two years.

Netanyahu has since struggled to secure a parliamentary majority, despite unprecedented overtures to the leader of a small Islamist Arab party and meetings with many rivals.

President Reuven Rivlin can assign the task to build a new coalition to another member of Parliament if Netanyahu fails to do so by midnight.

If Rivlin is given the opportunity, he is widely expected to select Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid Party finished second behind Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party in the March 23 vote.

Right-wing and Jewish religious parties, as well as traditional left-wing and centrist parties, have courted parties representing Israel's estimated 20% Arab minority, potentially empowering them to influence a Cabinet for the first time in decades.

A failure to form a new government would not immediately force Netanyahu out of office. Rivlin could give him two additional weeks to build a coalition government. Rivlin could also assign the task to a Netanyahu opponent or send the matter directly to Parliament.

The 71-year-old Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009 after holding the same office for three years in the 1990s. He has been fighting to remain in office through two years of political deadlock due to the inconclusive elections.

He is on trial facing criminal corruption charges and has denied any wrongdoing.

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