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After a close election, Israeli president asks Netanyahu to form a government

Netanyahu eked out a narrow victory, but now he has to find lawmakers who will support him

Amir Levy/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin formally selected Prime Minister for Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the government for another term. This was the second national election held in Israel in under a year.

What happened?

Despite how close the election came to going to his opponent, Netanyahu managed to hold his own on Tuesday night.

But while Netanyahu was victorious, it was not by much. He had 55 votes from members of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, compared to more socially liberal rival Benny Gantz's 54. And his Likud party only won 32 seats in the Knesset, slightly less than Gantz's Blue and White party which had won 33.

The Knesset has 120 total members, which Israel's ministry of foreign affairs explained is based on the number of members, according to Jewish tradition, of the council formed by Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the prophet after the Israelites returned from Babylon around the 5th century, B.C.

Neither candidate's party ended up with the 61 seats needed to form a government on its own. Instead, Netanyahu will now need to find political allies willing to form a coalition government. He will have six weeks to do this.

"With the help of God and with the help of the citizens of Israel, and with your, the president's, help, we will form a broad, national unity government later on. I hope we succeed now," Netanyahu said, according to Israeli news outlet Haaretz.

Rivlin has the discretion under Israeli law to choose which of the two candidates would be more likely to effectively form a government. According to Haaretz, if Netanyahu is unable to build a government, Rivlin could ask lawmakers to vote for another candidate.

What else?

According to the Jerusalem Post, since Netanyahu is facing the possibility of indictment, Rivlin said that he would offer Gantz the option to take over if that happened. Gantz, however, refused.

He also refused Netanyahu's offer that the two form a government together.

One last thing…
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