President Reuven Rivlin officially tasked Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid with forming a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so within 28 days.
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According to Rivlin, it is clear that Lapid has a real chance of forming a government, "although the challenges are many."
After receiving the mandate, Lapid wrote that "after two years of an endless political nightmare, Israeli society is reeling. The unity government is not a compromise - it is the objective."
He added that a unity government will include "the right, left and center working together to address economic and security challenges."
In his own televised statement shortly after Lapid received the mandate, Netanyahu attacked Naftali Bennett and his Yamina partner Ayelet Shaked for leading Israel into a "dangerous left-wing government."
Backing her long-time partner, Shaked rejected Netanyahu's claims in a personal statement. "You can tell stories and spin the truth," she said, "but in the end Netanyahu failed to form a right-wing government, because of Sa’ar and Lieberman's opposition and because of Smotrich's intransigence."
She reiterated Yamina's commitment to a right-wing government. "Since the election, Naftali and I have worked very hard to form a right-wing government. From the beginning, the seven Yamina seats have been part of the right-wing bloc, without conditions," she said.
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"I want to be clear: Naftali went to negotiations with Netanyahu with open arms. He sat in nightly meetings, met with everyone he could, and made every effort to form a right-wing government. I can understand that there is confusion and anger, but I will not lend a hand to slander: Bennett said from the beginning that he would try to form a right-wing government, and that is what he did. He also said that he would do everything within his power to prevent another election, and that is what he will do now."
Earlier on Wednesday, Bennett called on all political parties to join a "broad emergency government" in order to avoid a fifth election.
"The truth is simple, Netanyahu failed to form a right-wing," Bennett said in a statement to the press. He said that he “left no stone unturned” in order to form a right-wing government, including last-minute efforts on Tuesday night to leave the door open for such a government, but that Netanyahu “slammed it shut."
He also called on all right-wing parties to join a "broad emergency government," which he said would “not easy for anyone” and “not necessarily a natural government” but was the only alternative to a fifth election.
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Leiberman said in a statement that he "congratulates the president on making the right decision by giving the mandate to Yair Lapid" and saying that it is now the responsibility of the party leaders of the bloc for change to succeed in forming a government.
He added that it is imperative to "form a functioning government as early as next week."
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli also released a statement saying she was confident "Lapid would represent the interests of center-left as he is expected to" and that she was optimistic that "we can replace Netanyahu within a few days."
Lapid currently has 56 recommendations from lawmakers to form a government.