President Reuven Rivlin will receive the parties’ representatives on Monday at his residence to hear their recommendations for the candidate to form the next government. The Israeli media reported on Sunday night that should the balance is clearly in one candidate’s favor the president may announce his decision as early as Monday evening – that’s if a candidate receives 61 or more votes or if there’s a significant gap in the number of endorsements between one candidate and the rest. In any case, Rivlin intends to announce his pick by Tuesday at noon at the latest, ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of the 24th Knesset on Tuesday afternoon. This is also the reason why the round of consultations with party heads has been reduced to one day, as opposed to two days in the past.
This is the schedule of the President’s consultations on Monday:
- 9:30 AM – Likud
- 10:15– Yesh Atid
- 11:00 –Shas
- 11:45 – Blue&White
- 12:30 PM – Yamina
- 1:15 – United Torah Judaism
- 2:00 – Labor
- 4:00 – Israel Beiteinu
- 4:45 – Religious Zionism
- 5:30 – Joint Arab List
- 6:15 – New Hope
- 7:00 – Meretz
- 7:45 – Ra’am
Sunday night Israeli news outlets reported that Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said in a meeting behind-closed-doors that there was progress in his talks with Yemina chairman Naftali Bennett. “There is significant progress in talks with Bennett, I believe a government can be formed with him,” Lapid was quoted as saying. “He (Bennett) does not trust Netanyahu’s promises, and the Haredim will join such a government the day after its establishment.”
The rift between the two former political partners Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich and Bennett is getting worse. Smotrich’s associates say that he would oppose a rotation government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and Bennett as part of an attempt to prevent the formation of a center-left government with Bennett at the helm. On Sunday night Smotrich was reportedly adamant in his objection to Bennett becoming the next PM either in cahoots with Lapid or Netanyahu, because, as one of Smotrich’s associates put it, “This is an illegitimate demand for a party with only seven seats.”
Should Bennett manage to take over as the next PM with his seven seats (Smotrich received six), it would be ashamed if the party closest to Yamina ideologically would attack it the most fiercely, disregarding the obvious benefits of such an achievement to the Religious Zionist constituency.
New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar (also 6 seats) on Sunday night reiterated his election promise not to sit in a Netanyahu government. In a speech to his activists, Sa’ar said he was doing his best to establish a “change government in Israel that would replace Netanyahu.” He did not reveal his recommendation to the president on Monday. Reportedly following a conversation he had with both Lapid and Bennett.
Should Netanyahu fail to receive the presidential nod, Bennett (7) is expected to form a government with Sa’ar (6), Gantz (8), Lapid (17), Meretz (6), Labor (7), Liberman (7) – that’s 58 seats, with outside support or abstention from one Arab faction or both. Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc, with only 52 seats, will not be able to bring down such a government, and as Lapid suggested, at least one Haredi party—United Torah Judaism—is likely to abandon Netanyahu and help form a solid-majority government that won’t need the Arabs for its survival.
Of course, the ideological dichotomies within such a government would be staggering and no one expects it to last very long, but while it’s alive, it could pass two laws that would essentially decapitate Netanyahu’s political career: 1. A prohibition on a person under criminal indictment to for a government; and 2. A 2-term limit on the post of prime minister. They would get Netanyahu with just one of them.
Meanwhile, if you were wondering about the extent of the damage to the Israeli body politic from allowing an anti-Zionist Arab party into government, the Ra’am party has begun to peddle its goods to both camps, offering to support the election of the next Knesset Speaker—from Yesh Atid or Likud—in exchange for freezing the Kaminitz Law, the only effective government tool against illegal Arab construction. The next target for Ra’am would no doubt be revoking the Nationality Law, and, of course, torpedoing the Regulation Act that imposes a normative civil-law process on litigating Arab claims against Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.