by: Jo Sarah Stanford
Monday, 15 April 2019 | Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, held its national elections last Tuesday. The results have finally been tallied, giving current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a one-seat advantage over his main rival, former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. However, Netanyahu is not prime minister again quite yet. President Reuven Rivlin must first appoint a candidate for prime minister, who must then successfully form a majority coalition.
While the Israeli president’s role is largely ceremonial, he holds some very important duties, such as approving laws voted on by the Knesset (Parliament), appointing judges and endorsing ambassadors. He is also tasked with selecting a candidate for prime minister.
The president may choose any elected member of parliament to be prime minister. Usually—but not always—the leader of the party with the most seats will be chosen. This person then has 28 days to form a majority coalition, requiring a minimum of 61 of the 120 Knesset seats.
Now that the final votes have been counted, President Rivlin will meet on Monday and Tuesday with Knesset members to hear their recommendations for prime minister.
Between the two major parties, Netanyahu’s Likud party achieved a one-seat victory over Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, at 36–35.
Most of the right-wing and Orthodox parties have already agreed to side with Likud and will recommend Netanyahu as prime minister. If former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also joins Netanyahu, the Likud party will have a strong 65–55 seat majority.
Lieberman resigned last year in protest to Netanyahu’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza. While he has stated he will not align with Gantz, he has not yet committed his support to Netanyahu.
Rivlin will now meet with members from each party—starting from the party which won the most seats to the party holding the least—to hear their recommendations for prime minister. In a first, these discussions will be broadcast live from the president’s residence, in order to maintain transparency.
Even before Netanyahu gained a one-seat advantage over Gantz, he was the favorite for Rivlin’s pick as prime minister. Now that he has the advantage, it is almost certain he will win the role, making him Israel’s longest serving prime minister.
Even so, Netanyahu still has much work ahead of him in forming a coalition. The minor parties will ask for cabinet positions and guarantees on certain policies in return for their support. Netanyahu must balance the demands of the ultra-Orthodox parties with that of the secular within his alliance.
Netanyahu, confident that Rivlin will once again choose him as prime minister, toasted his party’s success at a cabinet meeting Sunday. “This is obvious from the public’s decision to renew our mandate, as a result of the tremendous things we have done in all areas represented at this table,” reported the Times of Israel. “We will continue to do so in the next government as well, and with God’s help we will succeed.”
Posted on April 15, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 15, 2019)
Photo Credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/wikimedia.org
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