Israel’s president has nominated the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to try to form a government following the latest inconclusive election, but voiced doubt that any candidate can forge a majority coalition.
“I have come to a decision based on the numbers of recommendations (from lawmakers), which indicates that Benjamin Netanyahu has a slightly higher chance of forming a government,” Reuven Rivlin said.
In Rivlin’s consultations with party leaders following the 23 March vote, Netanyahu was backed by 52 lawmakers elected to Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset.
The opposition leader, Yair Lapid, earned 45 endorsements. There were 16 abstentions and rightwing nationalist Naftali Bennett secured seven votes from his own Yamina party.
“The results of the consultations, that were open to all, lead me to believe that no candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset,” Rivlin said.
“In fact, if the law would allow me to do so, I would give the decision back to the representatives of the people.”
Rivlin referred directly to the misgivings of many Israelis about having Netanyahu try to form a government as he stands trial on corruption charges.
“I know the position held by many, that the president should not give the role to a candidate that is facing criminal charges, but according to the law and the decision of the courts, a prime minister can continue in his role even when he is facing charges.”
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier with a record 12 consecutive years in office, will have at least 28 days to negotiate a coalition agreement, a daunting task in Israel’s deeply divided legislature.