Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. But his unprecedented run might finally be up.
Netanyahu said in a Facebook post that he worked “relentlessly” to form a government ever since he received the mandate from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin in September after elections—the second this year—left Israel with no clear winner. But today Netanyahu announced that he’s giving up his mandate to form a ruling coalition government.
The president initially presented the mandate to Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud party, choosing the prime minister over his political rival Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party. In his statement today, Netanyahu blamed Gantz for his failure to form a government, although that’s “what the people wants,” because Gantz continually refused to meet.
Rivlin issued a statement saying he intends to grant Gantz the mandate next and will formally announce the decision by Oct. 23. Gantz will have 28 days to form a coalition among Israel’s widely divided political parties.
Arab parties will likely be pleased with this outcome and will rally behind Gantz. He represents the first chance in a decade to steer Israel in a different direction after Netanyahu’s hard right hawkishness.
Last month, the Arab Joint List—a coalition of four parties who won seats in the Israeli government— recommended to Rivlin that Gantz be tapped to form the next government, though their plea was unsuccessful.
The Arab Joint List is eagerly welcoming the end of Netanyahu’s leadership. Ayman Odeh, who heads the coalition, explained why he was hopeful in a New York Times op-ed last month after the elections. “The Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel have chosen to reject… Netanyahu, his politics of fear and hate, and the inequality and division he advanced for the past decade.”
He noted that at least 60% of Arab Palestinian citizens voted in the latest Israeli elections, and that his coalition representing Arab and Arab-Jewish parties won 13 seats, becoming the third-largest list in the Knesset. “We will decide who will be the next prime minister of Israel,” he predicted. And it seems he’s right.
Netanyahu’s reelection chances were hampered by several allegations of corruption. Two of the three cases alleged that the prime minister made deals with media moguls in exchange for favorable press coverage, and the third claims he received gifts in return for political favors. Staying in power would have allowed Netanyahu to push through legislation that would have given him immunity from possible prosecution by the attorney general’s office. That now seems like a long shot.