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Israel heads for third election as Lieberman refuses to endorse Gantz or Netanyahu

Lieberman on Wednesday refused to endorse a candidate for prime minister. [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 November, 2019

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Israeli kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman has refused to back either Benjamin Netanyahu or rival Benny Gantz for prime minister, pushing the country closer to holding its third elections in a year.
Hardline Israeli kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday refused to endorse a candidate for prime minister, practically pushing the country towards its third election this year.

The comments from Lieberman, leader of the secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, were widely anticipated as a midnight deadline closes in on Blue and White leader Benny Gantz's window to present a coalition government.

If Gantz fails, which is now all but guaranteed, the country enters the final 21-day period for a candidate to present a majority before new elections are called.

Yisrael Beitenu has enough seats to put either right winger Netanyahu or centrist Gantz's coalitions into power, but Lieberman said neither had done enough to convince him ahead of a midnight deadline for Gantz to form a government.

"Both are responsible," he said. "As things stand, we are on our way to new elections."

Lieberman accused Netanyahu of "enslaving" the Likud movement to the ultra-Orthodox parties, who he said had become more "anti-Zionist", Israeli media reported.

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A right-winger known for his tough rhetoric towards Gaza, he also blasted the Palestinian-Israeli joint list party as a "fifth column".

Lieberman had called for a national unity government between Netanyahu's Likud party and Gantz's Blue and White. But the two leaders could not agree on a power-sharing agreement.

He has been wary of backing Gantz, as even if he did, they would fall short of a majority, needing at least the tacit support of the Palestinian-Israeli Joint List to govern.

Gantz was given the opportunity to form a government last month after Netanyahu failed in the task.

Polls in April also led to a stalemate in a political system reliant on coalition building.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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