After final vote tally, Rivlin to ask Netanyahu Wednesday to form new coalition
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After final vote tally, Rivlin to ask Netanyahu Wednesday to form new coalition

Following consultations with newly elected parties, president left with straightforward task: to nominate incumbent; 21st Knesset to be sworn in on April 30

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

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu, left, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin attend a state ceremony for fallen Israeli soldiers whose burial place is unknown at Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on March 14, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu, left, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin attend a state ceremony for fallen Israeli soldiers whose burial place is unknown at Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on March 14, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin is set to officially task Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday with assembling a coalition to govern the 21st Knesset, with talks set to kick off a day later.

The president has no choice but to select the incumbent Netanyahu, after senior members of parties representing 65 of the 120 Knesset members recommended him for prime minister in consultations with Rivlin over the past two days.

Though Netanyahu’s Likud party tied with Blue and White with 35 seats each, the prime minister is the only one with enough potential partners to cobble together a right-wing coalition.

The final election results were published by the Central Elections Committee Tuesday night and will be presented to Rivlin on Wednesday, who will then meet with Netanyahu.

The prime minister is likely to build a coalition of up to 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).

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 think should be tasked with forming the government — i.e., the next prime minister.

Netanyahu secured the backing of 65 MKs, a majority of the 120-seat Knesset. Blue and White leader Benny 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.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks at a party event at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, on April 15, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

The Knesset announced Tuesday that the newly elected members will be sworn in on April 30 at 4:00 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.

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