President Reuven Rivlin has wrapped up his first day of consultations with the country’s largest political parties as he gears up to decide who will be given the task of forming a coalition government.
Rivlin met first with members of the Blue and White party, led by former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who underlined the party’s unwillingness to consider any leader other than Benny Gantz, and who told Rivlin that although national unity is important, sitting in a unity government with a Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu would not be possible.
That meeting was followed by one with the Likud, whose members told the president that although it was not a palatable choice, they would not fight if it became necessary to consider an alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu as a candidate for prime minister, and they had already understood, and agreed with the necessity of sitting in a unity government with the Blue and White party, even if it was not what they really wanted.
Members of the Joint Arab List then met with Rivlin, led by MK Ayman Odeh, who said, “For us, the most important thing is to remove Benjamin Netanyahu from power, so we will recommend Benny Gantz to form the next government.” Fellow faction member Ahmed Tibi added that the decision was made despite numerous reservations about Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff about whom the Israeli Arabs held many criticisms, particularly about Gaza. Most of the members of the group are firm supporters of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza terror groups with several attending official functions that reject Israel as a Jewish State and that glorify terrorists who murder Israelis.
The president met also with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman – who would not recommend Benny Gantz or Benjamin Netanyahu, finding fault equally with both – and then met with Shas leader Arye Deri, who said he was firmly in favor of recommending Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rivlin resumes his consultations with the remainder of the representatives of the parties on Monday, before he begins to decide the next step.
Neither of the two leading parties – Blue and White, expected to receive 57 recommendations when all is said and done, or Likud, with 55, have gathered enough support to definitely demonstrate they have the ability to form a coalition at this point on their own. But since Gantz has two more recommendations than Netanyahu, he will likely be given first try at building a coalition in any case.
If after 30 days Gantz fails, he can ask for an extension of 14 more days and if that proves inadequate, the president can then assign the task to Netanyahu, who likely will not have the benefit of a 14-day extension after a 30-day period.
If Netanyahu does not succeed, the president has the right to delegate the task to the Knesset, which can vote on a third candidate. Failing that, the country can once again be sent down the garden path to another, third election.
Rivlin has warned that only a unity government combining the two top parties will save the country from sliding into this nightmare of a third election.
Stay tuned . . .