Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Rivlin Tasks Netanyahu With Forming Next Government

Rivlin tasks Netanyahu with forming next government after unity talks fail

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday tasked Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud party leader, with forming Israel’s next government, after efforts to foster talks on a unity coalition between the prime minister and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz failed to bear fruit.
Standing alongside Netanyahu in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Rivlin said that though neither the Likud head nor Gantz had the support of a majority of lawmakers, the premier had a better shot at forming a government.
“For me the only question is who has the best possibility to form a coalition. In this situation, 55 MKs supported Netanyahu and 54 supported Gantz. But 10 of those from the Joint List said they would not sit with Gantz, whereas the full bloc of 55 said they would support Netanyahu,” Rivlin said at his official residence, summing up his round of consultations with the various Knesset parties.
“So the chance of the prime minister to form a coalition is higher,” he said.
Rivlin called for an end to parties boycotting “segments of society” and individual lawmakers as potential coalition partners, saying that such conditions were preventing the formation of a government and, if not withdrawn, would precipitate an unprecedented third election in less than a year.

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday night invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to build a majority government following the September 17 elections. And Netanyahu accepted the mission.
But neither man seemed to believe that Netanyahu would succeed. And the prime minister’s rival, Benny Gantz, was apparently untroubled that he had not been given the task.
Here’s an effort to make sense of Israel’s increasingly complicated post-election reality.

1. Why did Rivlin choose Netanyahu over Gantz?
The president selected the incumbent prime minister because, in consultations on Sunday and Monday, 55 members of Knesset recommended Netanyahu as prime minister, compared to 54 who endorsed Gantz. Moreover, Rivlin noted, 10 of those who recommended Gantz, from the 13-strong Arab parties’ Joint List, made clear that they would not actually sit in a coalition with the Blue and White leader. Hence, concluded the president, Netanyahu’s chances of mustering a majority in the 120-seat Knesset were better than Gantz’s, even though Gantz’s party won 33 seats in the elections, compared to Likud’s 32.

2. Does Rivlin believe that Netanyahu will succeed?
The president indicated that he has little faith in Netanyahu’s prospects of success. “There are no 61 necessary votes for building a government,” the president said, “not for outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and not for MK and ex-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.” Five months ago, Rivlin gave the same coalition-building mission to Netanyahu, and the prime minister failed to win a majority, crucially because Avigdor Liberman’s secular Yisrael Beytenu party refused to join forces with Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox allies. Liberman’s party again holds the balance of power between the two rival blocs, and is again refusing to sit in a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox. “The act” of giving Netanyahu the task of building a government, the president said, “is not the solution.”
3. How is Rivlin trying to break the deadlock?
The president has called repeatedly for a unity government, in which Likud and Blue and White would be the core partners. He repeated that perceived imperative on Wednesday night. With each of the rival candidates unwilling to cede to the other, he said he had proposed a “paritetic” government, under which all government authority would be equally distributed.

4. What happens next if Netanyahu fails?
Rivlin specified that both Likud and Blue and White had promised to “return the mandate” to him if their leader was selected to form a coalition and failed to do so — in contrast to April-May, when Netanyahu moved to dissolve the Knesset rather than let Gantz try to build a majority. Rivlin indicated that if Netanyahu does indeed fail, he would be prepared to let Gantz have a try. Blue and White may want to believe that, as the weeks pass, and the prospect of a third election inside a year looms larger, Likud Knesset members might break away from Netanyahu or seek to oust him, rather than risk losing their seats under a leader deeply embroiled in legal complications. To date, all Likud MKs have pledged and shown complete loyalty to Netanyahu, however.

Netanyahu said he’d “accept the mission” but without exuding much confidence. He said he shared Rivlin’s desire for unity, and recognized the imperative for national reconciliation after a divisive election campaign. He said Israel needed a “broad unity government” — indicating his ongoing commitment to his ultra-Orthodox and religious-nationalist allies, with whom Gantz has refused to negotiate. He also argued that Israel needs a government soon — to grapple with the Iranian threat, to meet Israel’s economic challenges, and to deal appropriately with the opportunities and challenges of the imminent Trump administration peace plan. Still, he indicated that he would not take all the time the law allows to try to build a majority; if it was clear within the next few days that there was no chance of success, he’d return the mandate to Rivlin.
Plainly, Netanyahu would like to depict Gantz as the holdout against a viable government — both to try to win over Liberman, however unlikely that may seem, and to win over public opinion if Israel is to be doomed to Elections: Part 3.

No comments: