‘Won’t back Netanyahu or Gantz for PM’

Israeli ex-Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday he will not endorse either Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz for Prime Minister following last week’s deadlocked elections.

Mr. Lieberman, who could potentially play a kingmaker role, spoke to journalists as President Reuven Rivlin began consulting political parties on who they will back for Prime Minister.

A delegation from Mr. Lieberman’s secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party was due to meet Mr. Rivlin later on Sunday.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said Sunday the country’s next government should include both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White alliance to form a “stable” coalition.

Yisrael Beitenu party Yisrael Beitenu won eight seats in the 120-seat Parliament in Tuesday’s election.

Mr. Lieberman has insisted on a unity government between his party, Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White.

He said he could not for now back Mr. Netanyahu because he is willing to form a coalition with Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, which he accuses of seeking to impose religious law on the secular population.

Mr. Lieberman also said he could not back Mr. Gantz for now because he may reach a deal with either the ultra-Orthodox or Israel’s Arab parties, which he called “enemies.”

Mr. Rivlin is not required to choose the politician who receives the most recommendations but the one he believes has the best chance of forming a government.

There has been speculation that he could alternatively meet with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz and ask them to explore options for forming a unity government.

Faced with disappointing results, Mr. Netanyahu had acknowledged he was unable to form the right-wing coalition that he last week hoped for.


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