A parade of politicians made their way to Shimon Peres' house on Wednesday and Thursday to tell him whom they wanted to see form the next government – and the overwhelming choice was Binyamin Netanyahu. In fact, he appears to be the only nominee, as no party has yet suggested an alternative.
As a result, Peres is expected to give Netanyahu the go-ahead to begin official coalition negotiations and form a new government.
In Israel's parliamentary system, the President is supposed to “nominate” the head of one of the parties in the Knesset to form a government. That candidate then attempts to work out a coalition deal with the heads of other parties, until he is able to get parties representing at least 61 Knesset members to agree to form a government. At that point, the Knesset votes on forming the government, and the candidate the President nominated becomes Prime Minister.
Generally, the job of forming a government is given to the head of the largest party, but under Israel's election law, the President makes his decision based on whom he thinks has the best chance of forming a government. Thus, four years ago, Peres charged Netanyahu with forming a government – even though the Likud was the second largest party in the Knesset.
During the elections, there had been much talk of a “center-left” coalition which would get together and recommend and alternative candidate to Peres. After the results of the election, there had been some attempts by Tzippy Livni to marshall Labor's Shelly Yechimovich and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid into an “anti-Netanyahu coalition,” which would suggest an alternative candidate to Peres.
But early on, Lapid announced that he was out – and that he preferred to see Netanyahu as Prime Minister. As a result, a Yesh Atid delegation recommended to Peres Wednesday that he choose Netanyahu as the candidate to form a government. On Thursday, both Jewish Home and Shas also gave their nod to Netanyahu. Together with the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu's seats in the Knesset, Netanyahu now has the support of 73 Knesset members who will vote for his government – and Peres is still set to meet with several parties, including UTJ and Kadima, that are also likely to recommend Netanyahu.
Peres also met Wednesday with Labor head Yechimovich, who said her party was not recommending anyone for Prime Minister. She did, however, nominate herself for Opposition Leader, a position that essentially makes her spokesperson for all parties not in the government. Speaking to Peres, Yechimovich said that “Labor will not enter a Netanyahu government. We will serve the nation from the opposition, and we will do it very responsibly, providing full support on security issues and the restarting of the peace process. For that we do not need to be in the government.”
Peres is expected to make his decision later Thursday.