March 16 (UPI) -- Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday handed Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz the mandate to form a national coalition government, less than two weeks after the nation's third election in 10 months.
Gantz's party received a slim majority of 61 seats in the Knesset compared to 58 pledged to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party.
With Rivlin's new mandate, Gantz said he plans to build a government that represents "all citizens of Israel and defend the rights of residents of Judea and Samaria, Arab citizens and residents of the periphery and the center of the country."
Netanyahu and two Blue and White lawmakers, though, have balked at supporting a unity government that includes Arab members who are part of the Joint List. The Joint List, which won 15 seats this month, helped give Gantz enough Knesset recommendations to form the government.
Rivlin has tried and failed twice before to get Likud and Blue and White to form a unity government.
Both parties have wanted their leaders to serve as prime minister under any unity party agreement. Last week, Netanyahu pitched a temporary, emergency government to handle the coronavirus crisis.