JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s president on Tuesday handed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the difficult task of trying to form a new government, giving the embattled Israeli leader a chance to extend his lengthy term in office.
But with the newly elected parliament deeply divided and the prime minister on trial for corruption charges, Netanyahu had little to celebrate.
He now has up to six weeks to lure his political foes into a coalition, an effort that appears to have slim odds of success. At the same time, those opponents will be working to form an alternative government that could end his 12-year reign.
In a meeting with members of his Likud party, Netanyahu struck a statesmanlike tone, saying he would be the prime minister of all of Israel’s citizens, Jewish and Arab, religious and secular.
“We will take care of everyone,” he said, vowing to “take Israel out of the cycle of recurring elections and to establish a strong government for all citizens of Israel.”
President Reuven Rivlin turned to Netanyahu in the wake of Israel’s fourth inconclusive election in the past two years.
As he announced his decision Tuesday, an anguished Rivlin said no candidate had the support needed to form a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset.