Netanyahu fails to form government, leaving his future in doubt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government before his mandate expired on Tuesday night, putting him in the most vulnerable position he has faced politically since becoming prime minister in 2009. Why it matters: This is the third time in the last two years that Netanyahu has had the first crack at forming a government but failed to do so. But this time, his rivals may be able to form a government without him.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeWhat's next: President Reuven Rivlin has three days to hold consultations with the various parties before deciding who will receive the mandate next.Rivlin’s aides tell me he's most likely to give the mandate to the centrist opposition leader, Yair Lapid, who has at least 45 members behind him in the 120-seat Knesset.Behind the scenes: For almost two weeks, it has been clear that Netanyahu didn't have a path to a majority. He has focused instead on trying to drive a wedge between Lapid and Naftali Bennett, the leader of a right-wing party. The two have been negotiating toward an alternative government.Netanyahu considered unprecedented steps to try to sabotage the transfer of the mandate to Lapid, Tal Shalev reported for Walla News, including falsely notifying Rivlin that he formed a government. After his plans were exposed, he backed off.Netanyahu has also considered ordering his right-wing bloc to recommend to Rivlin that he give the mandate to Bennett, rather than Lapid. Netanyahu could then pressure Bennett to negotiate only with his fellow conservatives. But that plan too fell apart after Bennett refused to rule out negotiations with Lapid.The state of play: The outlines of a potential Lapid-Bennett power-sharing deal are already clear. Despite Bennett's party only winning seven seats in the Knesset, Lapid would allow him to serve as prime minister for two years before he would rotate into the job for another two years.The center-left, which won more seats, would control most government ministries, however. All government decisions would have to be decided by consensus, and each bloc would have veto power.The government would steer clear of controversial ideological issues and focus on the post-COVID recovery, the economy and restoring some unity to the country after four consecutive election campaigns. Yes, but: It's no sure thing that Lapid and Bennett will be able to iron out all the remaining issues and replace Israel's longest-serving prime minister.What to watch: For Netanyahu, this is a desperate moment. In addition to watching the mandate pass to his rivals, he's also facing an ongoing corruption trial that could eventually land him in prison. Still, the lesson of recent Israeli politics is to never count him out.Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.

What next for Israel's chaotic politics after Benjamin Netanyahu fails to form government?

Israel’s longest serving prime minister woke up to a throbbing political headache on Wednesday morning after his deadline to form a coalition government expired on Tuesday night. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival amid a series of poor election results and a corruption trial, is now looking more vulnerable than ever. The Right-wing Likud party leader had been asked to form a coalition by Israel’s president after the country’s fourth election in two years in March, which failed to produce a clear winner. But after several fruitless weeks of coalition talks and backroom meetings, his deadline for forming a government expired at midnight on Tuesday, plunging his political career into deeper turmoil. It is not the last straw for the embattled leader, who may yet be able to cling on to power if he finds more supporters in the coming days and convinces Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli president, to grant him an extension. But his failure to find a 61-seat majority is delightful news for the so-called anti-Netanyahu bloc of left-wingers and centrists, who now hope to form their own alternative government. Here we look at what is most likely to happen now that Mr Netanyahu’s deadline has expired, and whether there is any hope of ending the worst political deadlock in Israeli history any time soon. Option 1: Netanyahu’s enemies try to form government The next few weeks could get very busy for the anti-Netanyahu coalition led by Yair Lapid, the head of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Israeli media reports say Mr Rivlin is poised to give Mr Lapid the next chance at forming a government within 28 days as his party came second, after Likud, in the March 23 polls. This will not be easy, as the Lapid-led bloc does not currently have a 61-seat majority and would need to unite voices across the political spectrum against Likud, something it failed to do after the previous three elections.