Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday with forming a new government.
Rivlin announced Tuesday afternoon that he has decided to grant Netanyahu a mandate for the premiership, following consultations with representatives of parties from the incoming 24th Knesset.
Rivlin’s nomination will grant Netanyahu selected a 28-day mandate to attempt to cobble together a governing coalition with the support of at least 61 MKs.
The results of the consultations, that were open to all, lead me to believe that no candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset,” Rivlin said during the opening of his announcement Tuesday afternoon. “In fact, if the law would allow me to do so, I would give the decision back to the representatives of the people, to the Knesset. But as I have said, I cannot do so according to law. In the position in which we find ourselves today, the law obliges me to entrust one of the candidates with forming a government."
"After consulting with the representatives of all the factions in the Knesset, the following picture has emerged: 52 MKs requested that I entrust MK Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a government. 45 MKs requested that I entrust MK Yair Lapid with forming a government. 7 MKs requested that I entrust MK Naftali Bennett with forming a government. 16 MKs did not make any recommendation to me."
Netanyahu, Rivlin continued, has a "slightly higher chance" of being able to form a government, thus the president is compelled to turn to him with the mandate.On Monday, Rivlin met with representatives from all 13 parties in the incoming Knesset, and received their recommendations for the premiership.
"I know the position held by many, that the president should not give the role to a candidate that is facing criminal charges, but according to the law and the decision of the courts, a prime minister can continue in his role even when he is facing charges. Moreover, the question of giving the role to a candidate facing criminal charges was one of intense political and public disagreement over the recent election campaigns. Because of that, I believed that the president should avoid deciding based on that consideration out of a sense of responsibility for the institution of the presidency and the trust in which it is held by all parts of the people. The President of the State of Israel is not a substitute for the legislature or for the judiciary. It is the role of the Knesset to decide on the substantive and ethical question of the fitness of a candidate facing criminal charges to serve as prime minister."
"Given this state of affairs, when there is no majority of 61 Knesset Members supporting a particular candidate, and without additional considerations indicating the chances of the candidates to form a government, I have come to a decision based on the numbers of recommendations, which indicates that MK Benjamin Netanyahu has a slightly higher chance of forming a government. Accordingly, I have decided to entrust him with the task of doing so."
Currently, no candidate has secured the support of a majority of MKs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is backed by 52 MKs, including the Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Religious Zionist parties.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party is backed by 45 MKs, including Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Labor, Yisrael Beytenu, and Meretz.
Yamina chief MK Naftali Bennett has the backing of his own party’s seven MKs.
Sixteen MKs have refused to endorse any candidate, with the New Hope party, the United Arab List and Joint Arab List all refusing to back a candidate.
If Netanyahu is unable to form a government with the backing of 61 MKs within the 28-day period allotted, President Rivlin is authorized to grant up to 14 days in extensions or to retract the mandate.
If the mandate returns to the president, he can select another candidate or turn to the Knesset, giving the legislature a deadline for finding a candidate who can receive the backing of a majority of MKs.