PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Crown Copyright, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A week after Israel’s fourth election in two years, negotiations to build a coalition government have begun.

Of the 13 parties represented in the new Knesset, all have previously ruled out coalitions with at least one other party. Should all keep their promises, it will be impossible for a government to be formed – and a fifth election will beckon. 

Many parties have ruled out any coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu outright. Others, including Naftali Bennett’s Yamina, have avoided committing to support Netanyahu despite similar ideological leanings. Meanwhile, both the far-right Religious Zionist alliance and the two Arab parties – the Joint List and Ra’am – have ruled out cooperation with one another.

During the campaign, Bennett vowed not to join a government led by Yair Lapid, leader of the second-largest party in the new Knesset. More recently, however, proposals have arisen for an agreement by which the prime minister role might rotate between Lapid and Bennett – in a style similar to the agreement theoretically still in place between Netanyahu and deputy prime minister Benny Gantz. Lapid has similarly been in negotiations with Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am party to explore coalition possibilities, as well as with Gantz’s Blue and White party, while Yisraeli Beytenu announced on Sunday that it would support Lapid for prime minister.

Abbas’s role as a kingmaker allows him to recommend either Netanyahu or Lapid as prime minister, after his party gained four seats in the Knesset last week. Abbas has stated that his goal is to force the next government to give greater priority to the needs of Israeli Arabs.

Should no viable coalition government be established, Israel faces a fifth election later this year.