Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has this week been given the mandate to try and assemble a coalition government, as the Knesset – Israel’s 24th – was sworn in amidst continuing political uncertainty.
On Tuesday, President Rivlin handed the mandate to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tasking him with forming the incoming government. In a ceremony at the Knesset, he said that the “Israeli people looks to you and expects each one of you to show leadership” and to see “ideological rivals not as the enemy, heaven forbid, but as potential partners”. The President also spoke of his unease with his decision, noting that no party leader appeared to have enough support to succeed at forming a coalition and pointing to the “moral and ethical” issues relating to Mr Netanyahu’s current criminal charges.
Following the announcement, Netanyahu addressed a Likud faction meeting promising to make every effort to remove Israel from the cycle of elections and establish a strong government for all of Israel’s citizens. “This won’t be a government of paralysis, but rather a government of action. To do this the government must be united in both policy and action. And to create it we must first end the personal boycotts”.
Prime Minister Netanyahu now has 28 days to form a government of 61+ Members of Knesset. Should he be unable to do so by 5th May, he can either ask for an additional 14-day extension or return the mandate to the President who may choose to nominate another candidate (most likely Yair Lapid) to attempt the task.
On Monday, President Rivlin held consultations with each of the 13 political parties that won seats in the Knesset following the March 23rd elections. Each party was asked to nominate the candidate that they saw fit to be the incoming Prime Minister and most likely to form a 61+ seat coalition. President Rivlin questioned each on their choices, policies and visions as he assessed which party leader to hand the mandate to in order to task them with forming a government. The President said his main consideration in picking a candidate would be their “chance of forming a government that will win Knesset endorsement” suggesting that the candidate would not necessarily need the greatest number of recommendations.
Following the individual consultations, Prime Minister Netanyahu had been endorsed by 52 MKs from Likud, Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionism (right-bloc). Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid leader, had been endorsed by 45 MKs from Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Yisrael Beitenu, Labor and Meretz. Three parties chose to abstain from recommending a candidate – New Hope, the Joint List and Ra’am.
Following the announcement, all 120 freshly elected MKs and the President headed to the official opening ceremony of Israel’s 24th Knesset. In a downbeat inaugural address, the President said: “Today, I stand before a parliament that has dissolved itself four times in less than two years. A parliament that has relinquished, time after time, the right to express its confidence in the government. The disagreements that divide our society are genuine differences. Many of them are matters of principle. But there are times when we are obliged to resolve even wrenching, tough, painful disagreements”.