Netanyahu Asks for Extension to Form Coalition

May 14, 2019

by: Jo Sarah Stanford

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PM Netanyahu and President Rivlin hold the document providing Netanyahu with a 14-day extension to form a coalition.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019 | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked President Reuven Rivlin for more time to form a parliamentary coalition on Sunday, as he approached the initial 28-day deadline on Tuesday.

Netanyahu’s Likud political party claimed victory in the April 9 elections, but he has yet to officially form a majority coalition. On Sunday, Netanyahu wrote to the president, “The negotiating team and I have had contacts with the parties that recommended me to you, and we’ve made significant progress toward forming a government,” reported Haaretz. However, no party has yet signed an official agreement.

When the prime minister asked for more time, he cited the many Jewish holidays and tensions on the Gaza border as his reason. Within the original 28-day timeframe, there were four major events on the Jewish calendar: Pesach (Passover), Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day). On top of this, over 700 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel in less than two days, in the worst border attack seen since Operation Protective Edge, the month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2014. During this time, Netanyahu had little chance for political negations.

The president granted Netanyahu’s request for more time, giving him until May 28 to officially form a government.

The Israeli parliamentary system has three distinct phases. The first is the general elections, where citizens vote for the party of their choice. The second entails the presidential appointment, with the president selecting a candidate for prime minister. The third and final phase is the formation of a majority coalition.

There are 120 seats in the Knesset (Parliament), therefore a majority coalition of 61 is needed.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 36 seats in the Knesset, while the main rival, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, won 35 seats. President Rivlin heard recommendations from Knesset members for whom they would support as prime minister. Netanyahu received 65 recommendations while Gantz received 55. Rivlin then chose Netanyahu as candidate for prime minister, giving him 28 days to form a majority coalition, with the possibility of a 14-day extension.

The first deadline expired on May 14, and over the weekend, the prime minister formally asked the president for an extension, which was granted. Though unlikely, if Netanyahu is still unable to form a coalition after the extension has passed, Rivlin will ask Gantz to form a coalition instead.

Netanyahu is expected to form a coalition—totaling 65 seats—within the allotted time. Thirty-six of these seats come from his own party, Likud. The rest are derived from smaller parties. Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah bring eight seats each, Union of Right-Wing Parties brings five, as does Yisrael Beytenu—led by former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman—and finally, centrist party Kulanu brings four seats.

These parties have already pledged their support to Netanyahu. All that remains is for him to negotiate who will fill the cabinet positions. This is a complicated task, as Netanyahu must balance the demands of the religious ultra-Orthodox against that of the secular Yisrael Beytanu party—all of which hold vastly opposing views on certain issues.

In order to help the process, the Knesset is expected to pass a law allowing for more cabinet positions to be appointed, a number currently capped at 19.

If Netanyahu succeeds in forming a majority government, in July he will become Israel’s longest serving prime minister, surpassing Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

Posted on May 14, 2019

Source: (Bridges for Peace, May 14, 2019)

Photo Credit: Haim Zach, GPO