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April 5, 2021 12:13 pm

Israeli Political Parties Begin Meeting With Rivlin to Recommend Choices to Form Government

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin looks on during consultations with party representatives on who might form the next coalition government, at the President’s residence in Jerusalem April 5, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/Pool

Representatives of the parties that will sit in the next Knesset began meeting with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin on Monday to announce their recommendations for who should be given the first opportunity to attempt to form a government.

The consultations were public and broadcast via livestream.

Walla reported that as of Monday night in Israel, those recommendations stood at 52 for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 45 for Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, and seven for Yamina party head Naftali Bennett.

The results of the March 23 elections, which largely became a referendum on the prime minister, left neither the “anti-Netanyahu” or “pro-Netanyahu” blocs with a clear path to a Knesset majority and thus a governing coalition. Both blocs will now depend on the wildcard parties Yamina and Ra’am to form a potential government.

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Netanyahu’s own Likud party, the religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the far-right Religious Zionism party all recommended Netanyahu; while the centrist Yesh Atid and Blue and White, center-left Labor, left-wing Meretz and secular right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu all recommended Lapid.

Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, as well as the predominantly Arab Ra’am and Joint List parties, did not recommend any candidate.

During consultations with representatives from Yesh Atid, Rivlin sounded a decidedly pessimistic note, saying, “I do not currently see a way that a government can be formed.” If this proves to be the case, Israel would go to its fifth elections in two years.

Later, in consultation with Shas MKs, Rivlin said, “We are in a difficult situation for the State of Israel, which, God forbid, is faced with the possibility — which is more realistic than any other possibility — that we will go to fifth elections, because there will not be a government that receives the confidence of the Knesset.”

One Shas MK told Rivlin in response that the party will not support any candidate but Netanyahu. Rivlin asked what the party would do if Netanyahu could not form a government. The MK replied, “Irrelevant.”

For its part, Blue and White said that, along with endorsing Lapid, it will not sit in a government led by Netanyahu — not only for ideological reasons but also because of the prime minister’s ongoing corruption trial.

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked told Rivlin that the party was recommending Bennett because “fifth elections are a disaster for the state.” Although other candidates might have more recommendations, she added, Bennett “is most likely to form a government.”

She also asked Rivlin to consider tapping Bennett to form a government during a second round if the first candidate fails.

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, a former ally of Netanyahu who has become a bitter rival, said that there is “a solution” to the threat of fifth elections, saying Netanyahu could “vacate his seat” and allow another Likud MK to form a government.

Rivlin replied, “I heard today from Likud members, such a thing will not happen.”

Lieberman said, “There are creative things, and we will be satisfied with that.”

N12 reported that representatives of the New Hope party, which has been part of the anti-Netanyahu bloc, told the president they will not recommend anyone, with MK Yifat Shasha-Biton saying that there are three options: a “change government,” a “right-wing government without Netanyahu,” or “a government based on rotation and parity between Bennett and Lapid.”

“The result is that they have not yet decided and everyone has recommended themselves,” she said. “We, in this reality, cannot recommend any one of them.”

In their meeting with the president, representatives from the left-wing Meretz party recommended Lapid. Its leader Nitzan Horowitz reminded Rivlin that if Netanyahu falls short of gaining a majority of recommendations, “you have full authority to contemplate additional considerations.”

Rivlin said last week that he may make his decision on his own personal assessment of who would have the best chance of forming a government, rather than automatically tapping the candidate with the most recommendations.

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