Likud said hinting it may recommend Bennett form gov’t

Alongside the legislative push, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party is also reportedly signaling it may recommend someone besides him form a government when his mandate to put together a coalition expires this evening.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a Likud member, told ultra-Orthodox MKs that Likud will likely recommend Yamina leader Naftali Bennett be given the next crack at assembling a coalition.

The report further said Bennett was pressing New Hope chief Gideon Sa’ar to recommend him, with the latter’s faction set to convene in the afternoon to discuss the matter.

Likud was also seeking to get Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas to back Bennett, with the Yamina chief himself involved in the effort, the Walla news site reported.

If Yamina, Ra’am and every lawmaker in Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc were to recommend Bennett, it would mean a majority of MKs are backing him to form a government. However, with the far-right Religious Zionism party opposed to any government backed by Ra’am, Bennett — just like Netanyahu currently — would not have a majority.

Having Bennett get the mandate, though, would prevent it from going to Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, and Walla said it was part of Netanyahu’s efforts at pressuring the Yamina chief not to form a government with the premier’s political rivals.

It is by no means clear that President Reuven Rivlin would task Bennett with forming a government even if he had substantial support, however. Reports last night indicated that Rivlin might incline to conclude that tasking the Yamina chief with building a coalition might be tantamount to giving Netanyahu an unwarranted second chance, and that “change bloc” leader Yair Lapid, of Yesh Atid, should now be given the opportunity to muster a majority.

Lapid got 45 recommendations to Netanyahu’s 52 on April 5, when Rivlin consulted with party representatives after the March 23 elections. In those consultations, the president asked the various MKs if they had a second choice for PM were their first choice to fail, and the Likud representatives were adamant that Netanyahu was their first and only prime ministerial candidate.

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