Rivlin clarifies won’t intervene in coalition crisis before deadline passes
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Rivlin clarifies won’t intervene in coalition crisis before deadline passes

As Netanyahu struggles to make progress, president rebuffs pleas to task another lawmaker with forming a government, notes Knesset has the right to dissolve, call fresh elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and President Reuven Rivlin attend the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem, on Israel's 71st Independence Day, May 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and President Reuven Rivlin attend the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem, on Israel's 71st Independence Day, May 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday rejected calls that another lawmaker be given an opportunity to form a coalition, saying he will allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to use every minute of the remaining hours granted him to establish a government.

Netanyahu has so far failed to form a coalition amid a standoff between secular and ultra-Orthodox parties. With time running out before a looming deadline, Netanuahu’s Likud party is pushing a bill to disband the Knesset and hold fresh elections later in the year, a course of events which has never happened before in the country.

Rivlin said he will give Netanyahu the full allotted time until Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. before other scenarios are entertained, and clarified that the Knesset is entitle to vote on holding another round of elections.

“Until midnight tomorrow, the mandate for forming the government is in the hands of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” a statement from Rivlin’s office said. “The president will allow him to exhaust the time granted him by law while hoping that we won’t, heaven forbid, be caught up in another election campaign.”

“The Knesset has the authority, according to the language of that very same law, to decide to dissolve,” the statement continued. “In light of that, the Knesset and its members, as the representative of the sovereign, that is the people, will bear the future ramifications of its decision.”

A special Knesset committee continues to discuss the bill to dissolve the Knesset, which passed a first reading on Monday.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 19, 2019. (Flash90)

Earlier Tuesday Labor Party MK Shelly Yachimovich appealed to Rivlin to task another lawmaker with forming a government to avoid a situation in which elections are called.

“This is a precedent-setting event in the history of the state, which has never happened before, and it imposes on the entire country governmental chaos, paralyzing all systems,” Yachimovich wrote to Rivlin.

Yachimovich’s Labor is not a prospective coalition partner and would sit in the opposition if a government is formed before the deadline.

In her letter Yachimovich said she has spoken to other lawmakers from a broad range of parties and none of them are keen for fresh elections.

“I appeal to you to call on Knesset members to reconsider their vote in the [dissolution] law, and to exercise the powers you have in order to save the state from this destructive scenario, and to task another MK to try to form the government,” she wrote.

The letter came after other opposition lawmakers on Monday called for another lawmaker to be given the chance to muster a coalition if Netanyahu fails to form a government before the deadline.

MK Miki Zohar, who presented the bill to dissolve the Knesset and is chairing the special committee to review the legislation, said that several dates for an election are being looked at including August 27, September 3, September 10, September 17, or October 29, the Ynet website reported.

A representative of the Finance Ministry told the committee Tuesday that the cost of disbanding parliament is estimated to be about NIS 475 million ($131 million).

The Finance Ministry said in a statement that “the budgeting department does not involve itself in the political question of bringing forward elections, and as soon as they are brought forward the budget will be found.”

Netanyahu has yet to ink a deal with any of his prospective partners, and progress has stalled amid an impasse between the secular Yisrael Beytenu and ultra-Orthodox parties on the question of a bill regulating the military draft among the ultra-Orthodox.

While advancing the possibility of snap elections, Netanyahu has been working feverishly to reach a deal with his would-be coalition partners.

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