Majority of MKs recommend Netanyahu for PM

Kulanu and Yisrael Beytenu give Likud leader the nod for premiership; Yesh Atid abstains, signaling opposition stint

Members of the Yesh Atid party meet with President Reuven Rivlin at the president's residence in Jerusalem on Monday, March 23, 2015 (photo credit: Mark Nyman/GPO)
Members of the Yesh Atid party meet with President Reuven Rivlin at the president's residence in Jerusalem on Monday, March 23, 2015 (photo credit: Mark Nyman/GPO)

Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party on Monday recommended that President Reuven Rivlin choose Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu as the next prime minister, giving Netanyahu the requisite majority of 67 MKs.

The elected members of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party told Rivlin earlier that it wouldn’t recommend anyone for the premiership and that the centrist faction would sit in the opposition.

Yesh Atid MK Yael German met Rivlin at the start of the second day of consultations about the formation of a governing coalition. The former health minister, whose party dropped from 19 seats in the previous Knesset to just 11 in last week’s vote, said Yesh Atid would recommend neither Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu nor Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog for prime minister.

Instead, Lapid’s party would “serve our constituents and all the voting public” from the opposition, German said.

Rivlin told the party’s representatives that the country was “already four months without an approved budget and it’s causing many problems for different institutions.”

Rivlin also met with representatives of Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz Monday to receive their nomination for prime minister.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman told Rivlin that “I have to point out that in recent days — if I must specify the issue that bothers me even more than building this government it’s the baseless hatred that is developing among the Jewish people.”

Following Monday’s meetings, Rivlin is expected to task Netanyahu with forming a coalition. Coalition negotiations between various parties are expected to begin in earnest Wednesday, and Netanyahu will have four weeks to form his government, with an option to extend talks for another two.

Meretz, like Yesh Atid, Zionist Union and the Joint (Arab) List, is expected to sit in the opposition.

On Sunday, Rivlin met with the Likud, Zionist Union, Joint List, Jewish Home, Shas, and United Torah Judaism parties, urging party membersto form a broad, inclusive coalition able to withstand growing international pressure on the Jewish state.

Of 88 MKs representing the first group to meet with Rivlin on Sunday, a total of 51 nominated Netanyahu to lead the government.

“The political issues and the pressure that our best friends in Europe and the US will exert require a broad coalition in the upcoming Knesset,” the president said while meeting with the ultra-Orthodox UTJ party.

President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem on March 22, 2015, in a meeting with the Likud party. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem on March 22, 2015, in a meeting with the Likud party. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO)

UTJ MK Moshe Gafni, however, rebuffed the president’s wishes, saying his party would not be willing to sit with certain other parties, and said that if those unnamed parties were to join the coalition, United Torah Judaism — and its six seats — would head to the opposition.

Although Gafni did not mention the party by name, UTJ has long been at odds with Yesh Atid, which calls for the mandatory enlistment of ultra-Orthodox men and cuts to the welfare and social benefits that affect many in the ultra-Orthodox community.

The party, along with the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Shas (seven seats), nominated Netanyahu to lead the government.

The Jewish Home party also nominated Netanayhu, fulfilling a campaign promise it made to its voters. The right-wing party affirmed its support for the prime minister’s leadership, calling for increased construction in the contested areas of the West Bank and Golan Heights.

MK Uri Ariel, leader of the hardline Tekumah faction within Jewish Home, dismissed reports that his faction would splinter if not offered the Housing Ministry, a position he retained in the last cabinet, according to the right-wing Israel National News website.

Ariel and party chief Naftali Bennett were reported to be at odds following the election, as the two were involved in several well-documented spats. The Tekumah faction holds two of the party’s eight seats.

Following the meetings with Rivlin, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely addressed the coalition negotiations, asserting the Likud’s need to hold onto high-level ministerial posts while telling other parties to tone down their demands in the interest of securing a stable coalition.

“I am certain it’s of mutual interest to establish a lasting, strong and stable coalition, and for this the other sides need to lower their demands,” she said. “It’s important that key ministries such as the foreign, defense, and education [ministries] stay in the Likud.”

The Zionist Union and the Joint List were the only two parties not to nominate Netanyahu on Sunday, with the Zionist Union’s 24 members nominating party leader Isaac Herzog center-left party and the Joint (Arab) List (13 seats) opting to not nominate anyone, due to its rejection of Zionist parties.

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