Rivlin to meet next week with party chiefs on naming next PM — on air

With right-wing bloc poised to finish with clear majority, Netanyahu sure to get first shot at building a coalition; president’s office says talks will be broadcast live

President Reuven Rivlin speaks with the press after casting his ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem, during elections for the Knesset, on April 9, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks with the press after casting his ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem, during elections for the Knesset, on April 9, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin will meet with party leaders next week to receive their recommendations for the candidate who should be tasked with forming the next government following Tuesday’s Knesset elections.

Rivlin met Wednesday with Justice Hanan Melcer, the head of Central Elections Committee, and the two agreed on the timing of the consultations with faction heads next week at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

A statement from Rivlin’s office did not specify which day the meetings would begin.

“In a historic and pioneering decision,” the statement said the talks will be broadcast live on various media “in the name of transparency” and for the first time.

The talks with party chiefs will focus on who should get the first opportunity at assembling a ruling majority in the 120-seat Knesset. The president will then hold negotiations on building a coalition with the candidate best suited to form the next government. This Knesset member, who does not necessarily need to have received the most recommendations or be the head of the largest party, will then have 28 days to form a government, with the possibility of a two-week extension.

President Reuven Rivlin (L) meets with Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, the head of the Central Elections Committee, in Jerusalem on April 10, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

With over 97 percent of ballots counted, and his Likud party and fellow right-wing and religious parties poised to secure a clear majority of Knesset seats, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from Tuesday’s elections in the best position to muster a coalition.

In the run-up to election day, Netanyahu campaigned heavily for his Likud to be the largest party, saying Rivlin would choose the head of the biggest party to assemble a government.

In a recording aired by Israeli television, the prime minister was heard saying Rivlin “is just looking for an excuse” to give other parties a shot at forming the next government, a claim strongly rejected by Rivlin.

While the official vote tally after so-called double-envelope ballots from soldiers, diplomats and other government employees could alter the final results, Likud won 35 seats in the elections, as did challenger Benny Gantz’s Blue and White electoral alliance, but the right-wing bloc as a whole was expected to have 65 seats between them.

As of Thursday afternoon, the heads of Shas, United Torah Judaism, Kulanu and Union of Right-Wing Parties all said they would recommend Netanyahu to form a government, but together with Likud would only have 60 seats between them, one shy of a majority.

Hawkish former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu won five seats according to the near-final results, on Wednesday ruled out joining a Gantz-led coalition, but said teaming up with Netanyahu was not a sure thing.

Liberman quit as defense chief in Netanyahu’s government in November in protest of a ceasefire agreement to end a round of fighting between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, railing against Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinian territory.

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