Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday evening tapped Likud Chair and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the task of forming a ruling coalition, after meeting together with Netanyahu and his main challenger, Blue and White Chair Benny Gantz.
"Having consulted with representatives of all the factions, I hereby announce that outgoing prime minister MK Binyamin Netanyahu has this evening received the mandate to form a government," Rivlin said. "At the conclusion of the consultations, neither MK and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nor MK and former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz had 61 votes to form a government. The purpose of the law is to form a government as quickly as possible, and therefore the decision on who is asked to form the government was influenced by who has the better chance of forming a government."
"At the same time," he added, "it is important to say that with the election results in mind, and the fact that neither of the candidates received the support of 61 MKs, assigning the responsibility for forming the government one of the candidates is in itself not the solution. Doing so does not detract in any way whatsoever from the responsibility of both candidates, and all parties, to create the conditions for resolving the political impasse we find ourselves in. The job of forming Israel’s government is now in the hands of all elected officials of all parties.
"It does not matter who I entrust first with the task, and if required and if it is the right thing to do, who I turn to second - as long as there are boycotts of whole parts of Israeli society, as long as there is no interest in forming new alliances between large and small parties, as long as there is no real desire to reach an agreements and to compromise, no government can be established."
"You should know that among the other proposals that I have raised, I offered both candidates the establishment of a shared government. That would mean a government of equals, in which neither bloc would have an advantage.
"I also suggested that alongside the prime minister, the law would be changed to give force and power to the role of the interim prime minister. The uniqueness of that role is that whenever the prime minister is unable to fulfill his role the interim prime minister serves as prime minister in all respects.
"I also suggested that the law be amended so that any leave of absence is not limited to one hundred days. This would enable a prime minister to remain in office for as long as there is no need to take a leave of absence. If the prime minister does take a leave of absence, that person will continue to be prime minister in name, but the authorities of the office would be transferred to the interim prime minister.
"This was my suggestion to solve the political and legal complications we face. That was my offer, and I'm laying it out here for the public, Rivlin explained. "In my decision to give the Likud candidate the first opportunity to form a government, I took into account that the Likud party, as well as Blue and White, made a public pledge to return the mandate to the presidency if they do not succeed in forming a government."
"Dear friends, Mr Prime Minister: on at least one topic the vast majority of people agree. The people does not want further elections. The time we are in and size of the challenges ahead of us requires the leaders of this people to establish a government in Israel, a government for the people of Israel."
"MK and outgoing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, MK and former IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, all public officials: the Israeli people need to know that a government can be established. If a government is established, it is true that everyone will have to compromise. But if a government is not formed, it is the citizens of Israel who will pay the greatest price. In the name of this dear people which lives in Zion, and for the good of all Israeli citizens, I wish you success," Rivlin concluded.
Netanyahu also spoke upon receiving the mandate, asserting that a unity government was the only possible option for forming a government.
A broad, national unity government - and, I should add, quickly - is the order of the day."
"A broad national unity government is needed and it is needed now. Everyone understands that there will be no other opportunity. Therefore, I will make every effort to establish it, with joint leadership.
"I am talking about a joint leadership, a government with parity, a government with various interesting arrangements. It is possible to do a host of things to ensure that partnership," Netanyahu added.
"There is no point in wasting time and dragging things out over precious months. If I cannot form a government in the coming days, it will apparently have to wait until the final stretch, maybe the last 21 days. Then, when everyone understands that there is no choice but a unity government, it will certainly be established."
"I will do everything I can with the mandate you gave me, and I if I don't succeed, I will return the mandate to you," Netanyahu told Rivlin. "With G-d's help, and the help of the citizens of Israel, and with your help, we will establish a broad national unity government later. I hope we will succeed now. I thank you very much for the important conversations between us and for the important and decisive effort to establish a broad national unity government. As far as I'm concerned, I will make every effort in this matter."
Rivlin announced the decision after receiving the official election results earlier on Wednesday.
Under the law, Rivlin has seven days after receiving the results to name someone to form a government, but he opted to move ahead without delay, according to a statement from his office.
Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government, with a possible two-week extension.
If his attempts fail, Rivlin can then assign the task to someone else.