15:20 GMT16 June 2021
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    The head of the Yesh Atid party has 28 days to form a coalition. If he fails, the mandate will go back to the Knesset, which will have additional 21 days to produce a contender for the task or be forced to hold another election, the fifth in two and a half years.

    After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a majority government for the fourth time in two years, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin decided to give another contender a chance. 

    The head of the opposition, Yair Lapid, will now have 28 days to forge alliances and collect the 61 signatures needed to become Israel's PM.

    His mandate is set to expire on 2 June, after which he can ask for a two-weeks extension. However, if he fails to forge alliances by the end of this term, the mandate will go back to the Knesset, which will have 21 days to find another candidate, who would be entrusted with the same task. The failure to produce such a contender will mean that Israel will be heading to yet another round of general polls.

    A Fifth Round Won't Happen

    Amir Oren, one of Israel's most celebrated journalists and political analysts, who has been covering Israeli politics for years, says his country might not reach that point, simply because Lapid will be able to establish a coalition "either on his own or with a partner".

    In recent days, when it was already clear that the efforts of Netanyahu to form a government were hitting a brick wall, Lapid stepped up his talks with the head of the  hawkish Yamina party, headed by Naftali Bennett.

    Reports suggested that they even made a breakthrough on how their government would look, with Bennett taking the reigns first, and Lapid following later. But major gaps between them remain intact, with the two failing to agree on the distribution of ministerial positions or how to tackle a number of potentially explosive issues, including the distribution of funds or the separation of religion from state.

    Nevertheless, Oren believes there is no going back, and the two will eventually manage to come to terms with one another.

    "The Israeli public has had enough of Netanyahu for the past 12 years and [people] are ready for a new team. They might not support that team for too long but chances are that Israel will avoid a fifth round of elections."

    Unfit for the Position?

    Interestingly enough though, that same Israeli public that has been tired of Israel's longest-serving PM thinks he is the most fit for the role.

    A recent poll revealed that slightly more than 63 percent thought Netanyahu was suitable for the position. Only 18.21 and 4.74 percent said the same about Lapid and Bennett, respectively.

    The Israelis' concern is understandable. While Netanyahu produced five normalisation pacts, brought millions of vaccines to Israel and steered the country through its biggest economic crisis, Lapid who has been heading the opposition, has done little to improve the lives of ordinary Israelis.

    In the past, critics accused Lapid of being absent too often from the Knesset, not putting forward laws and legislation, travelling abroad far too much (and often at the expense of the public), and promoting "undemocratic" values within his own Yesh Atid party.

    Recently, during the four rounds of pre-election campaigns, he was slammed for not having any specific agenda rather than that of removing Netanyahu from office and for shouting too loud, while doing too little. 

    Oren acknowledges that the records of Lapid as a lawmaker "are rather poor".

    "He is now in his ninth years in politics. Less than two years he spent in government as a finance minister, a mediocre one that didn't leave a great impression there. But he learnt a lot since then."

    One of the things he learnt was to manoeuvre through Israel's complicated political system. Another thing was to tone down his anti-Ultra Orthodox rhetoric, which is especially relevant now, when he will be building a coalition with a number of religious politicians. 

    "Lapid showed that he is a shrewd politician but that doesn't mean he will know how to govern. He should be judged three, six or nine months from now."

    For now, however, he will need to do a lot of ground work and make compromises with his potential coalition partners. If he succeeds and forms a government, he will need to tackle a number of pressing issues in the sphere of security and economy. But Oren is certain that if his coalition survives, "there is a chance that he will relieve some of the tensions which are dividing Israeli society today".

    Tags:
    government, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair Lapid, election, Israel
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