(September 22, 2019 / JNS) Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has begun meeting with the newly elected Knesset faction leaders this week to hear their recommendations on who should be charged with forming a coalition and becoming Israel’s next prime minister.
On Sunday, Rivlin began scheduled meetings with Blue and White, Likud, the Joint List, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu. Then on Monday, Rivlin is to meet with United Torah Judaism, Yamina, Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union.
At the start of the meeting with Blue and White, Rivlin told the party faction, “The people of Israel want a government that will be stable. A stable government cannot be a government without both of the two largest parties [Blue and White, as well as Likud].”
All the meetings are being be broadcast live.
Despite Blue and White making the strongest showing in the election with 33 Knesset seats (the Likud received 31), party leader Benny Gantz may not be charged with forming the government. Blue and White’s left-wing coalition makes up just 44 seats with Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union, which would jump to 57 if the Joint List of Arab parties were to join a coalition.
Netanyahu’s current right-wing bloc stands at 55 seats.
Israel’s Knesset has 120 seats, so for a coalition to be stable it needs at least 61
The Joint List, which has not recommended a prime-ministerial candidate since it voiced its support for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, remains undecided as to whether it will recommend Gantz. Even if it does recommend him, it will likely not be invited to join the coalition, and Gantz may not succeed in garnering enough Knesset members.
Gantz has stated that he will not join a coalition which he does not lead.
Rivlin has expressed his determination that Israel avoid a third election cycle, and has said that he may call Gantz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in for a meeting in the hopes of creating a national unity government.
In a video in Arabic posted to Facebook, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said, “Without the weight of the Arab citizens, Netanyahu cannot be defeated … but can we support Gantz without anything in return?”
While Rivlin must consult with all elected parties and receive the official election results from the Central Elections Committee before announcing his decision, he is legally allowed to choose any Knesset member to form the next government.
Whoever he picks will have 28 days to form a coalition, with an optional 14-day extension. If that candidate fails, a second candidate would have 28 days to make an attempt.
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