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Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Two weeks after Israel's fourth consecutive election, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday gave the mandate for forming a new government to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why it matters: Netanyahu's path for forming a coalition is very, very narrow. Although he received the mandate from the president, Netanyahu does not at the moment have a majority in the Israeli Knesset that will allow him to form a new government. 

Driving the news: Rivlin announced his decision after holding consultations with members of all the different parties on Monday.

  • During the consultations, 52 members of the Knesset recommended Netanyahu to form the government, while 45 recommended opposition leader Yair Lapid.
  • Seven members of the Knesset recommended the leader of the right-wing Yemina party, Naftali Bennett, and 16 members didn't recommend any candidate.

Between the lines: According to Israeli law, the president must give the mandate to a member of the Knesset that has the best chance of forming a government.

  • Rivlin said in a statement that his conclusion after consultations was that neither Netanyahu nor Lapid have a majority to form a government, but that Netanyahu's chances of success are "slightly better."

The big picture: Israel has been engulfed in a political and legal crisis for the last two years as a result of Netanyahu's indictments and ongoing trial for corruption.

  • The fact that Netanyahu remained prime minister despite his trial has created a series of unprecedented situations that have led to a total dysfunction of the government.
  • Rivlin was under public pressure not to give the mandate to Netanyahu due to his ongoing trial.
  • Rivlin said he faced a moral difficulty in his decision to tap Netanyahu, but stressed that the law doesn't forbid a member of Knesset who is standing trial from receiving the mandate to form a government.

What's next: Netanyahu now has 28 days to try and form a government.

  • His only path to forming such a government is if he manages to convince the radical right wing "Religious Zionism" party, which consists of Jewish supremacists and Islamophobes, to sit together in the same coalition with the Islamic party — which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
  • If Netanyahu fails in forming a government, the Knesset will have 21 days to try and form an alternative coalition. If this fails too, Israel will go for a fifth election in September.

Go deeper

Apr 5, 2021 - World

Israel's split screen: Netanyahu on trial as post-election consultations start

Netanyahu arrives in court on Monday. Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon/Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty

As the first witness in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial took the stand on Monday, President Reuven Rivlin was consulting with representatives of Israel's political parties as to who should form the next government.

Why it matters: This split-screen moment between the Jerusalem district court and the president’s residence encapsulated the political and legal crisis that has engulfed Israel over the last two years. The crisis appears likely to continue now that a fourth election has ended with no clear winner.

1 hour ago - World

Israeli officials will object to restoration of Iran deal in D.C. visit

Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the delegation traveling to Washington, D.C. next week for strategic talks on Iran to stress their objection to a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal and to refuse to discuss its contents, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: That position is similar to the one Israel took in the year before the 2015 nuclear deal was announced, which led to a rift between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. History could now repeat itself.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases aren't budging — even after vaccinations doubled— Health care workers feel stress, burnout more than a year into the pandemic — Handful of "breakthrough" COVID cases occurred in nursing homes, CDC says.
  2. Vaccines: Johnson & Johnson's vaccine production problems look even bigger — All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine.
  3. Political: Watchdog says agency infighting increased health and safety risks at start of pandemic.
  4. World: EU regulator: Benefits of J&J vaccine outweigh risk of rare blood clots.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.