Many analysts believe the surging violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and Arabs and Jews, will create new obstacles to Mr. Abbas’s involvement in a coalition. His support for a government that includes right-wing Israelis would become harder for much of his constituency to swallow, and the right-wing flank of the anti-Netanyahu camp would be hard pressed, in this highly charged atmosphere, to form a government reliant on Arab support and to accede to Mr. Abbas’s wish list of concessions for joining the coalition.

“If the opposing ideologies meant they had one hand tied behind their back,” Professor Hazan said of the various parties trying to find a way to work together to oust Mr. Netanyahu, “now they have both hands tied behind their back.”

Mohammad Darawshe, of the Center for Equality and Shared Society at Givat Haviva, an organization promoting Jewish-Arab relations, said the trend among the Arab parties was “for new political engagement.” But the longer the coalition talks drag on, and the worse the violence becomes, the more the discord between the left, right and Arab flanks of the anti-Netanyahu bloc is likely to increase, he said.

“The polarization is growing,” he said, “not only among the politicians but also among their bases.”

As the conflict intensifies, Mr. Netanyahu has tried to project confidence and dispel the notion that his hold on power is crumbling.

“If someone thought that there wouldn’t be a united, strong and forceful leadership here because of some consideration or other, they were wrong,” he said during a visit on Wednesday to Acre, a mixed Jewish-Arab city in northern Israel where some of the worst ethnic violence has played out. “We are here,” he said. “We are working with all our might to protect Israel from enemies outside and rioters within.”

The crisis could help Mr. Netanyahu win over opponents who had promised during the election campaign not to enter a government led by him, said Mitchell Barak, a Jerusalem-based pollster and political analyst.

“Netanyahu is exactly where he wants to be, in the middle of a major crisis where you don’t want to change the prime minister or the defense minister,” Mr. Barak said.

“No political party or politician will be held accountable now for any campaign promises due to the situation,” Mr. Barak added. “Everything’s wide open.”

One of Mr. Netanyahu’s chief rivals, Benny Gantz, the defense minister in the caretaker government, and a linchpin for any potential alternative coalition, is currently busy supervising the military campaign in Gaza in close coordination with Mr. Netanyahu, his longtime nemesis.

Some analysts speculated that the emergency could help Mr. Netanyahu persuade Mr. Gantz to remain on his side and ultimately help keep him in office.

Under the terms of the coalition agreement reached by the two men last year, during the pandemic crisis, Mr. Gantz had been supposed to take over as prime minister in November. That agreement fell apart over a budget crisis, leading to the election in March, but their coalition remains in place as a caretaker government.

“They have to manage a war together when they couldn’t keep to a coalition agreement or agree on a budget,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, a Tel Aviv-based political consultant and pollster.

But, Ms. Scheindlin added, “The closer we get to full out war, the easier it is to make a legitimate case that you can’t change a government in the middle of war.”

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Who Is Yair Lapid, Israel’s Would-Be Prime Minister?

JERUSALEM — Yair Lapid, the centrist politician and former media celebrity whose party took second place in Israel’s March election, had pledged to forgo the premiership if that’s what it would take to form a coalition of diverse parties that could oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power.

The unusual exercise in political humility stemmed not from modesty, but from the difficulties he knew he would face in mustering enough parliamentary support to form an alternative government.

Now, after Mr. Netanyahu failed to form a viable coalition by Tuesday’s midnight deadline, Mr. Lapid’s political skills and sincerity will be put to the test. The president, Reuven Rivlin, has given him the next shot at cobbling together a government that might send Mr. Netanyahu into the opposition and end Israel’s political gridlock.

Mr. Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid (There is a Future), won 17 seats in the inconclusive election, Israel’s fourth in two years. But its path to power is hampered by the disparate nature of the anti-Netanyahu bloc, which is made up of numerous small parties with clashing agendas. Some of its right-wing elements view Mr. Lapid as too left-wing to lead an alternative government.

preserving liberal democracy and thwarting Mr. Netanyahu’s stated goal of forming a government made up of right-wing and religious parties, reliant on ultra-Orthodox rabbis and ultranationalist extremists.

standing trial on corruption charges and who, together with his right-wing and religious allies, intended to curb the powers of the Supreme Court and possibly seek some kind of immunity from prosecution.

Speaking to party activists before the election, Mr. Lapid described the coalition that Mr. Netanyahu wanted to form as “an extremist, homophobic, chauvinistic, racist and anti-democratic government,” and said, “it’s a government where nobody represents working people, the people who pay taxes and believe in the rule of law.”

reneged on a main election promise and joined forces with Mr. Netanyahu to form an uneasy — and short-lived — unity government after last year’s election.

After a highly successful career as a journalist and popular television host, Mr. Lapid was the surprise of the 2013 election when, as a political novice, his party surpassed expectations and placed second, turning him into the chief power broker in the formation of the coalition.

His father, Yosef Lapid, a Holocaust survivor and an antireligious politician, once also headed a centrist party and served as justice minister. His mother, Shulamit Lapid, is a well-known novelist.

An amateur boxer known for his casual-chic black clothing, Mr. Lapid rode to power on the back of the social justice protests of 2011, giving voice to Israel’s struggling middle class. On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has stuck to the middle ground, presenting safe positions within the Israeli Jewish consensus.

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Israeli President Taps the Opposition Leader Lapid to Form Government

JERUSALEM — Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the Israeli opposition, was asked on Wednesday to try to form a coalition government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so by a Tuesday deadline.

Mr. Netanyahu remains caretaker prime minister and if Mr. Lapid cannot cobble together a government, the country could face another election this summer, its fifth general election in a little more than two years.

Mr. Lapid has 28 days to persuade a majority of the 120-seat Parliament to support him after the president, Reuven Rivlin, gave him the mandate to begin coalition negotiations.

In the March election campaign, Mr. Lapid, 57, ran on a promise to preserve checks and balances, and to prevent Mr. Netanyahu from remaining in office at the head of a right-wing, religious alliance that seeks to curb the power of the judiciary.

divisions and complexities of Israeli politics currently make it impossible for Mr. Lapid to win office without reaching a compromise with parts of the far right.

general election in March with 17 seats, behind Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing party, Likud, with 30 seats.

offering Mr. Bennett a power-sharing deal in which, like the deal proposed by Mr. Lapid, Mr. Bennett would go first as prime minister.

But Mr. Bennett rejected it because the proposed alliance would still not have commanded a parliamentary majority.

Right-wing parties hold a majority in Parliament, but have been unable to form a functional government over the past two years because they are divided between those who support Mr. Netanyahu, and those who believe he should resign to focus on his corruption trial.

That split has redrawn the Israeli political map — as political ideology has become defined more by perceptions of Mr. Netanyahu than by economic policy or approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Netanyahu Fails to Form New Israeli Government, Prolonging Deadlock

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel failed to form a new government by the midnight Tuesday deadline, putting his political future in jeopardy as he stands trial on corruption charges and prolonging a political deadlock that has only worsened after four elections in two years.

Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, may now give a rival, eclectic camp of anti-Netanyahu parties a chance to form a government, which could oust Mr. Netanyahu from power after 12 consecutive years in office.

Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is by far the largest on Israel’s fractured political scene, having won 30 seats in a general election in March. Despite that, he was not able to muster enough coalition partners to command a majority of at least 61 seats in the 120-member Parliament.

His hopes for a right-wing and religious coalition ultimately fell short because his far-right allies refused to join a government supported by a small Islamist Arab party. The Arab party, Raam, was willing to back a Netanyahu administration in return for benefits for Israel’s Arab minority.

failed in a last-gasp effort to persuade a right-wing rival, Naftali Bennett, to join him in a power-sharing agreement that would have seen the pair take turns as prime minister.

Mr. Bennett had dismissed the offer, saying that even with his support Mr. Netanyahu could not muster a majority.

Three minutes before midnight, Likud issued a terse statement blaming Mr. Bennett for foiling Mr. Netanyahu’s chances by refusing to commit to a right-wing government, “which would certainly have led to the formation of a government joined by additional members of Parliament.”

Mr. Rivlin may now ask one of Mr. Netanyahu’s rivals — representing a disparate group of parties ranging from the pro-settlement right to the secular left — to try to cobble together a governing coalition that would send the prime minister into the opposition. Or Mr. Rivlin could ask Parliament to put forward a candidate.

He has three days to make that decision. His office said that he would restart the process on Wednesday morning by contacting each of the political parties represented in Parliament.

bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he has denied wrongdoing and insists the cases against him will collapse in court.

a political stalemate that has left Israel without a state budget for two consecutive years in the middle of a pandemic, and has delayed appointments to several key administrative and judicial posts.

The largest party challenging Likud, and the runner-up in the election, is Yesh Atid, a centrist group that won 17 seats. But its leader, Yair Lapid, a former finance minister, does not have an easy path to forming a government either.

The bloc opposing Mr. Netanyahu is made up of numerous other small parties with clashing agendas. The smaller right-wing parties in the bloc view Mr. Lapid as too left-wing to lead the government.

pledged during the election campaign to put his ego aside and concede the premiership if that was what it took to unseat Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

collapsed after seven months of political and administrative paralysis.

Some analysts say that Mr. Netanyahu, a political survivor, is happy to function as a caretaker prime minister, riding the wave of electoral turmoil from one transitional government to another, as long as he remains in office. And if the latest imbroglio ends in a fifth election, he is likely to run again.

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Israel Election Results Show Stalemate

TEL AVIV — Israel’s fourth election in two years has ended in another stalemate, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his opponents able to win a parliamentary majority, according to final results released Thursday by the Israeli election authority.

The results set the stage for weeks or even months of protracted coalition negotiations that many analysts expect may fail, prompting yet another election in late summer.

The results, though final, are not yet official since they have yet to be formally presented to the country’s largely ceremonial president, Reuven Rivlin. That will happen next Wednesday, a spokesman for the central elections committee said.

But the count confirms earlier projections that Mr. Netanyahu’s alliance of right-wing and religious parties won 52 seats, nine short of an overall majority. A heterogeneous collection of centrist, left-wing, right-wing and Arab opposition parties won 57.

Islamist Arab party Raam, and the right-wing Yamina — won four and seven seats respectively and will be the focus of competing attempts by Mr. Netanyahu and the leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, to form a coalition.

confronting vital questions about how to reform their election system and mend deep social divides.

After two elections in 2019, no one was able to piece together a majority coalition and form a government. After the 2020 contest, Mr. Netanyahu and some of his adversaries entered into an unwieldy coalition government that could not agree on a budget, forcing the latest election.

The continued stalemate leaves Mr. Netanyahu in power as a caretaker prime minister, even as he stands trial on corruption charges that he denies. The election upended the political map, dividing voters less by political ideology than by their attitude toward Mr. Netanyahu and his decision to run despite being under indictment.

Should he eventually form a formal coalition government, critics fear he will use his office to push through a law that would grant him legal immunity. Mr. Netanyahu rejects the claim, but has promised legal reforms that would limit the role of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Rivlin now takes center stage: He must consult with each of the 13 parties elected to Parliament before formally asking a political leader to try to form a majority coalition, an invitation that is likely to be made in 10 days.

Israeli presidents have typically offered this right to the leader of the largest party, which in this case would be Mr. Netanyahu, whose Likud party won 30 seats.

But Mr. Rivlin has the right to offer it to any lawmaker he deems best able to form a coalition, which in this case might be Mr. Lapid.

Whoever receives the invitation is expected to struggle to form a coalition. If Mr. Netanyahu persuades Raam to join his coalition, he could lose the support of a far-right alliance already in his bloc. That alliance, Religious Zionism, said Thursday that it would refuse to serve in a government supported by Raam.

Similarly, Mr. Lapid may struggle to persuade two right-wing parties within his alliance to sit not just with Raam, but with another Arab group called the Joint List.

And even if either leader somehow does form a coalition, it is expected to be so fragile and ideologically incoherent that it would struggle to last longer than a few months.

Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting.

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Will Israel’s Strong Vaccination Campaign Give Netanyahu an Election Edge?

He has presented himself as the only candidate who could have pulled off the deal with Pfizer to secure the early delivery of millions of vaccines, boasting of his personal appeals to Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, who, as a son of Holocaust survivors, had great affinity for Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu even posted a clip from South Park, the American animated sitcom, acknowledging Israel’s vaccination supremacy.

But experts said his claim that the virus was in the rearview mirror was overly optimistic.

Just months ago, Israel’s daily infection rates and death rates were among the worst in the world. By February, Israel was also leading the world in the number of lockdown days. About two million Israelis under 16 are so far unable to get vaccinated and about a million eligible citizens have so far chosen not to.

With much of the adult population now vaccinated, weekly infection rates have been dropping dramatically. But there are still more than a thousand new cases a day, an infection rate that, adjusted for population, remains higher than those of the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Spain and others.

Health officials approved the reopening of businesses and leisure activities. But they sharply criticized a High Court decision this week lifting the quotas on airport arrivals, in part to allow Israeli citizens abroad to get back and vote.

“The High Court is taking responsibility for the risk of mutations entering Israel,” Yoav Kish, the deputy health minister, wrote on Twitter. “Good luck to us all.”

Critics blame the government for having failed to establish a reliable system to enforce quarantine for people entering the country, and health experts warn that they could bring in dangerous variants of the virus that are more resistant to the vaccine.

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Israel Has Its 4th National Election in 2 Years. Here’s Why.

JERUSALEM — Israelis head to the polls on Tuesday for the fourth time in two years, hoping to break a seemingly endless cycle of elections and a political deadlock that has left the country without a national budget during a pandemic.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes Israel’s world-leading vaccination program, which has helped the country emerge in recent days into something approaching normality, will give him and his right-wing allies an edge and the stable majority that proved elusive in three earlier rounds of elections.

But Mr. Netanyahu, prime minister since 2009, is running for re-election while standing trial on corruption charges — a dynamic that opposition parties hope will prompt voters to finally push him out of office.

In reality, though, polls show that neither bloc has a clear route to a majority, leaving many Israelis bracing for another inconclusive result, and a possible fifth election later in the year.

Parliament to dissolve, forcing a new election, though for now the government remains in place.

than by whether they are for or against Mr. Netanyahu.

a key constituency in this election campaign.

In a sign of how the political map has changed, two of Mr. Netanyahu’s principal challengers in this election cycle are also right-wingers. Gideon Saar is a former interior minister for Mr. Netanyahu’s party and Naftali Bennett is Mr. Netanyahu’s former chief of staff.

The third leading challenger is Yair Lapid, a centrist former broadcast journalist whose party is mounting the strongest challenge to Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. Gantz is no longer considered a viable threat to the prime minister. Polls suggest his party may even fail to win a seat, largely because of anger among his former supporters over his decision to form a unity government with Mr. Netanyahu in the first place, an arrangement he had promised not to join.

The Parliament, known in Hebrew as the Knesset, has 120 seats that are allocated on a proportional basis to parties that win more than 3.25 percent of the vote.

The system almost guarantees that no single party will win an outright majority, often giving tiny parties big influence in the deal-making that forms coalitions. The system allows for a broad range of voices in Parliament but forming stable coalitions under it is difficult.

It could take weeks or possibly months for a new government to be formed — if one can be formed — and at any point in the process, a majority of the Knesset could vote to dissolve again, forcing yet another election.

In the days after the election, Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president, will give one lawmaker four weeks to try to form a coalition. He usually gives that mandate to the leader of the party that won the highest number of seats, which is likely to be Mr. Netanyahu. But he could grant it to another lawmaker, like Mr. Lapid, who he believes has a better chance at pulling together a viable coalition.

If that lawmaker’s efforts break down, the president can give a second candidate another four weeks to form a government. If that process also stutters, Parliament itself can nominate a third candidate to give it a go. And if he or she fails, Parliament dissolves and another election is called.

In the meantime, Mr. Netanyahu will remain caretaker prime minister. If somehow the deadlock continues until November, Mr. Gantz might still succeed him. The power-sharing deal the pair agreed to last April was enshrined into Israeli law, and stipulated that Mr. Gantz would become prime minister in November 2021.

In recent weeks, Israel has sent children back to school, reopened restaurants for in-house dining and allowed vaccinated people to attend concerts and theater performances.

Mr. Netanyahu hopes the success of Israel’s vaccine rollout, which has given a majority of Israelis at least one dose, will help propel him to victory.

But his pandemic record may also cost him. Some voters believe he politicized certain key decisions — for instance, capping some fines for flouting antivirus regulations at levels much lower than public health experts recommended.

Critics perceived this as a sop to ultra-Orthodox Israelis, some of whom flouted coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings. Mr. Netanyahu will need the support of two ultra-Orthodox parties to remain in office after the election.

Voting by mail is not available in Israel. To prevent the spread of the virus, special polling stations are being set up for quarantined people and for Covid-19 patients.

No one is ruling it out. Mr. Netanyahu’s party, Likud, is predicted to emerge as the largest party, with around 30 seats. But his allies may not win enough seats to give him a majority of 61.

And though current polling suggests the opposition parties will collectively win more than 61 seats, it’s unclear whether their profound ideological differences will allow them to come together.

The key player could be Mr. Bennett. Though he wants to replace Mr. Netanyahu, he has also not ruled out joining his government.

Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.

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