Netanyahu fails to form new Israeli government; rival Gantz poised to take up the challenge

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday gave up his struggle to form a governing coalition after last month’s dead-heat national election, opening a possible path to power for his rival, former army chief of staff Benny Gantz.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin immediately said he would give Gantz a chance to assemble a majority of lawmakers, making him the first person other than Netanyahu authorized to form a government in more than a decade. Gantz will have 28 days to do what Netanyahu could not: entice at least 61 members of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, to support his bid.

Gantz’s success is far from certain. Israel’s complex political system all but ensures that the final outcome is not likely to be clear for weeks and that a third election in less than a year may be required. But the turn of events Monday was remarkable nonetheless.

“This is new: This broadens the political imagination to include the possibility that someone not named Netanyahu could be the prime minister of the state of Israel,” said Mordechai Kremnitzer, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. “But I think Gantz will also find it extremely difficult to shape a coalition.”

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