Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been chosen by President Reuven Rivlin to form Israel’s next government, it was announced Wednesday.
The president’s office made the announcement after it became clear following two meetings in his office that it would be impossible to create a unity government deal between Likud party leader Netanyahu and his opponent, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz.
“I have decided to give you, sir, the opportunity to assemble a government,” Rivlin told Netanyahu at the nomination ceremony held in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.
“I accept the mission you have given me,” Netanyahu said in response. “I do not do so in the knowledge that I have a high chance of forming a government, but rather in the knowledge know that my inability to do so is a little smaller than the inability of MK Gantz, given that we are both incapable of forming a government together.”
Netanyahu also called for a unity government, quickly. “The order of the hour is a unity government,” he said. “A broad national unity government and fast, I would say.” He added that only with unity would come national reconciliation, an urgent necessity.
“It’s vital at all times, but now especially. We have been through a tough election campaign on all sides and for all sides,” Netanyahu said. “We need to unite the nation, to heal the rifts because we are facing three huge challenges.”
Each of the candidates had agreed to the idea of unity in principle when discussing it with Rivlin, but their approaches were vastly different and the divide was simply too great.
Neither has enough mandates at this point to simply declare a majority — 61 mandates — and thereby create a new coalition government. But at the conclusion of all of Rivlin’s consultations, Netanyahu has the endorsement of 55 lawmakers; Gantz has the endorsement of 54.
So-called “king-maker” Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, sat squarely between the two with his coveted eight mandates but declined to support either, preferring to advocate for a unity government that excludes Netanyahu’s Orthodox Jewish coalition partners.
Netanyahu refused to abandon his coalition partners who have been loyal supporters when he has needed them most.
At present, the prime minister now has 28 days within which to create a coalition government of at least 61 mandates. If he fails, he may ask the president to grant him a 14-day extension in order to continue his efforts.
Should he still not succeed, Rivlin may then hand the task to Gantz, who will then also have 28 days within which to make the same attempt.