President Shimon Peres on Thursday morning entered his second day of consultations with Israeli party leaders, a process that will culminate with him naming the person who will form the next government. The selection of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the party that won the most seats in the elections by a wide margin — 31 – is now largely a formality.
While members of the right-wing Jewish Home and Shas parties, likely partners in a coalition led by Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu faction, recommended the incumbent, the Labor Party representatives said they had no one they could nominate for the job. Representatives of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party told the president they would join any coalition that would allow them to reach the political goals for which their voters chose them.
On Wednesday, Peres met with members of Israel’s two largest political factions.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar of Likud, accompanied by several top party officials, was the first to arrive at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for the consultations on Wednesday.
“The political reality is quite clear,” said Sa’ar. “Only one man, one candidate has the ability to establish a government in Israel that is as stable and broad as possible.”
According to government protocol, officials from each party meet with the president, starting with the largest, in order to convey their recommendations for who should be tasked with forming a coalition.
Following on the heels of the Likud delegation was the Yesh Atid party, led by Yair Lapid who, with 19 seats behind him, will head the second-largest party in the next Knesset.
After the meeting, Lapid said he had recommended Netanyahu for prime minister as a matter of principle, and by doing so hoped to avoid some of the power play that often follows elections as parties jockey for positions in the coalition.
“In our platform it says that the person who should form the next government is the leader of the largest party, and we mean it,” Lapid said. “This is the new politics, which doesn’t deal with what is good for the party but rather with what is good for the state.”
In contrast to Lapid, the leaders of the two other major center-left parties, Labor and Hatnua, do not intend to offer a recommendation for prime minister when they meet with Peres during another round of consultations on Thursday, Ynet reported.
Prior to the election, Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich vowed that she would not join a Likud-led coalition. However, in light of the unexpected success of Yesh Atid, many in her party feel there is room for their faction to take a place in the government. Tzipi Livni, the leader of the Hatnua party, which ultimately won six seats, led a pre-election initiative to try and form a center-left bloc to stop Netanyahu from forming a coalition, but, with Yesh Atid set to partner with Likud, her efforts have been dashed.
Peres is expected to issue his recommendation on Thursday evening or Friday morning. Assuming that he taps Netanyahu, the prime minister will have 28 days to form a coalition, after which Peres can grant him a 14-day extension if needed or pass the mantle on to a different party leader.
Earlier on Wednesday, Peres formally received the election results from the head of the Israel Elections Committee, Elyakim Rubinstein. The president commended the committee on successfully overseeing the election.