Election panel director fights tears as she protests attacks

Rivlin receives final election results, is set to tap Netanyahu as PM

President, elections committee head dismiss New Right’s criticism of vote count; committee director blasts ‘unbridled attacks’ on public servants

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Central Elections Committee Chairman Hanan Melcer presents the official results of the April 9, 2019 Knesset elections to President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, April 17, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Central Elections Committee Chairman Hanan Melcer presents the official results of the April 9, 2019 Knesset elections to President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, April 17, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The final results from last week’s Knesset elections were officially submitted Wednesday to President Reuven Rivlin, who defended the body in charge of tallying the ballots after it was attacked in recent days by some politicians.

Later in the day, Rivlin is set to officially task Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with assembling a coalition to govern the 21st Knesset, with negotiations set to kick off on Thursday.

The president’s all-but-certain decision to tap Netanyahu comes after senior members of parties representing 65 of the 120 Knesset members recommended Netanyahu for prime minister in consultations with Rivlin over the past two days. Though Netanyahu’s Likud party tied with Blue and White at 35 seats apiece, the prime minister is the only one with enough potential partners to cobble together a coalition.

During a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Rivlin told Central Elections Committee chairman Hanan Melcer that his committee members had “acted with dignity, honesty and fairness to ensure equality before the law for all candidates.”

טקס הגשת תוצאות הבחירות הרשמיות לכנסת ה-21

כולי תקווה כי נשוב בקרוב מאוד לשגרת החיים בהנהגתה של ממשלה גדולה, יציבה, שתשקף כמה שיותר את רצון העם. טקס הגשת תוצאות הבחירות הרשמיות לכנסת ה-21.(צילום: אבי קנר, מקליט: אורי בוזגלו)

פורסם על ידי ‏Reuven Ruvi Rivlin – ראובן רובי ריבלין‏ ב- יום רביעי, 17 באפריל 2019

Some candidates, especially from Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right party, which narrowly missed passing the electoral threshold, have in recent days criticized the committee and alleged massive election fraud.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (R), Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (L), hold a press conference of the New Right party, in Tel Aviv on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

“I am happy the various problems have been solved — this isn’t the first time nor the last,” Rivlin said. “The examinations prove how efficient you were. It is important for every citizen to know their vote matters and is counted. I would like to thank the committee members. These elections posed challenges we hadn’t previously seen.”

Melcer, a Supreme Court justice, noted that “in recent days some have tried to undermine the legitimacy of the results by submitting reservations that were all examined by us. I want to say we checked everything and uploaded the results in real time for the public to see. That sometimes comes at a cost — there is a mistake and it is immediately corrected.

“There are those trying to boost themselves on the basis of the mistake despite it being fixed.”

Orly Ades, director of the Central Elections Committee, fights back tears as she protests attacks on the integrity of the committee’s work, at a Knesset Elections Committee meeting on April 17, 2019 (C12 screenshot)

Earlier Wednesday, at a Knesset Elections Committee meeting concluding the Central Elections Committee’s work, its director, Orly Ades, decried the “unbridled attack” on its work.

“We are dealing here with the power of the vote, the people’s voice, but we experience in full the negative impact of words, the impact of the unbridled attack we faced and which we had to fend off,” she said.

“That included baseless remarks questioning the integrity of the committee and its professional team,” Ades added in an impassioned speech during which she fought back tears. “All that was unfortunately done without thinking for a moment that behind all that are us — the employees of the Central Elections Committee — flesh and blood public servants in the full sense of the word.”

The final election results were published by the Central Elections Committee Tuesday night, and the final vote tallies appear on its website.

The prime minister is likely to build a coalition of 65 seats comprising Likud (35 seats), the ultra-Orthodox Shas (8), United Torah Judaism (8), Union of Right-Wing Parties (5), Yisrael Beytenu (5) and Kulanu (4). The opposition is expected to comprise Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party (35), Labor (6), Hadash-Ta’al (6), Meretz (4) and Ra’am-Balad (4).

After Rivlin makes the selection, Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government, with the possibility of a two-week extension at the discretion of the president.

Rivlin held meetings on Monday and Tuesday with representatives of the political parties voted into parliament for consultations ahead of the appointment.

Members of the Yisrael Beytenu party meet with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 16, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

During the consultations, broadcast live from Rivlin’s presidential residence, members of each party told him who they thought should be tasked with forming the government.

Netanyahu secured the backing of 65 MKs, a majority of the 120-seat Knesset. Blue and White leader Gantz, in contrast, had just 45.

Avigdor Liberman, whose secularist right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party won five seats in the election, said Monday he would recommend Netanyahu, likely cementing the Likud-led coalition, though Liberman said he would hold his ground on religious and state issues in a coalition likely to be dominated by the religious right.

The clash between religious and secular right-wing parties will likely complicate negotiations going forward.

Likud is expected to start coalition negotiations on Thursday with representatives of right-wing and Haredi factions.

The Knesset announced Tuesday that the newly elected members will be sworn in on April 30 at 4 p.m. (Israel time). The law dictates the swearing in ceremony should take place 14 days after the elections, but the Knesset speaker delayed the ceremony due to the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter.

read more: