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Israel's political upheaval continues as new chapter in coalition building begins

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President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the swearing-in of the 22nd Knesset

Although Gantz - who will have 28 days to form a government - has expressed confidence about the task, he is expected to face many difficulties.

Israel's president Reuven Rivlin tasked ex-military chief Benny Gantz on Wednesday with forming a new governing coalition and bringing Israel out of the longest political impasse in its history.

The TV network quoted a Blue and White source as saying the party would not necessarily accept the president's outline, but was coming to negotiations to talk about everything and would wait to hear what Likud had to say.

Netanyahu could also be given immunity from prosecution by the Knesset, although he isn't likely to succeed in securing a majority and even if he does, that, too, will surely be tested at the High Court.

Negotiators from Gantz's Blue and White party and Netanyahu's Likud party will meet Thursday, according to Likud.

A spokesman for Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said: "We still have not confirmed a date but it is reasonable to assume the meeting will take place on Tuesday".

Because of the deadlock, efforts have concentrated on forming a national unity coalition that would include both Likud and Blue and White.

A security hawk, he is determined - like Netanyahu - to keep the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank under Israeli control and to maintain Israeli sovereignty over annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

President Reuven Rivlin formally granted the mandate to Gantz, who will have 28 days to form a coalition.

Mr Gantz is a former head of the Israeli military and served in that role while Mr Netanyahu was prime minster.

Another option would be to form a minority government with Avigdor Lieberman, who emerged as kingmaker after his party won eight seats and has refused to endorse either Gantz or Netanyahu.

Gantz has also balked at including ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties - some of Netanyahu's traditional allies - in his administration.

"We must behave responsibly towards Israeli citizens and avoid new elections", Gantz said Wednesday, adding that there would be room for "all elements of Israeli society" in his coalition. A leader has never before been elected during that time period in Israel.

Gantz, who headed Israel's military from 2011 to 2015, now has the endorsement of only 54 lawmakers - seven short of a parliamentary majority that neither the 60-year-old former general nor Netanyahu could secure in last month's vote and in the ballot in April.

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