Israel’s Lieberman refuses to back Netanyahu or Gantz for prime minister

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israeli secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, gives an address at the party's electoral headquarters in Jerusalem in September. (File photo: AFP)

Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman has refused to endorse a candidate for prime minister, practically pushing the nation toward a new, third election this year.

The nationalist, whose Yisrael Beitenu party has enough seats to put either right winger Benjamin Netanyahu or centrist Benny Gantz’s coalitions into power, 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’s comments were widely anticipated as a midnight deadline closes in on 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.

Neither Prime Minister Netanyahu nor his chief challenger Gantz has the required majority to build a coalition government with like-minded allies.

Lieberman has refused to give either the nudge for the required majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament and has urged them to join in a unity government as a way out of the stalemate but those efforts have failed.

Last Update: 11:47 KSA 14:47 - GMT 11:47