With nine days left before the elections, and the two major parties neck and neck in the polls, President Reuven Rivlin reportedly said Sunday that he will call on Likud and the Zionist Union to form a national unity government in the event of a result which leaves neither capable of forming a stable coalition.
He would ask the dual-party government to then push through legislation on electoral reform, Rivlin reportedly told a group who visited his residence, to amend the instability inherent in the current system, where larger parties have to court smaller parties in order to cobble together a rickety ruling coalition.
According to Rivlin, as quoted by Channel 2, if the sides cannot come to an agreement regarding social and political issues, then at least legislation can be passed to prevent Israel from “turning into Italy,” where elections are very frequent. The TV report had no direct confirmation of the report from the president’s office.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated that he will not sit in a unity government with the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, due to “deep ideological differences,” although anonymous Likud sources have indicated otherwise.
Current election polls show the Zionist Union almost even with Netanyahu’s Likud, in what analysts predict will be a tight race.
Israelis head to the ballot boxes on March 17.
Following the elections, the president taps the party of his choosing to try to assemble a coalition, based on the recommendations of the heads of the various parties.
Rivlin has said that he will confer the right to form a government on the leader with the best chances of assembling a coalition government, and not necessarily the party with the greatest number of seats.
Such a prospective outcome is not without precedent.
Even though the centrist Kadima party under Tzipi Livni won 28 seats in the 2009 elections, it was Netanyahu, with 27, who became prime minister, because he could rely on the support of Yisrael Beytenu and other right-wing parties.