Apr 6, 2021 - World

Netanyahu tapped to form new Israeli government, despite no majority

Netanyahu
Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Two weeks after Israel's fourth consecutive election, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday gave the mandate for forming a new government to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why it matters: Netanyahu's path for forming a coalition is very, very narrow. Although he received the mandate from the president, Netanyahu does not at the moment have a majority in the Israeli Knesset that will allow him to form a new government. 

Driving the news: Rivlin announced his decision after holding consultations with members of all the different parties on Monday.

  • During the consultations, 52 members of the Knesset recommended Netanyahu to form the government, while 45 recommended opposition leader Yair Lapid.
  • Seven members of the Knesset recommended the leader of the right-wing Yemina party, Naftali Bennett, and 16 members didn't recommend any candidate.

Between the lines: According to Israeli law, the president must give the mandate to a member of the Knesset that has the best chance of forming a government.

  • Rivlin said in a statement that his conclusion after consultations was that neither Netanyahu nor Lapid have a majority to form a government, but that Netanyahu's chances of success are "slightly better."

The big picture: Israel has been engulfed in a political and legal crisis for the last two years as a result of Netanyahu's indictments and ongoing trial for corruption.

  • The fact that Netanyahu remained prime minister despite his trial has created a series of unprecedented situations that have led to a total dysfunction of the government.
  • Rivlin was under public pressure not to give the mandate to Netanyahu due to his ongoing trial.
  • Rivlin said he faced a moral difficulty in his decision to tap Netanyahu, but stressed that the law doesn't forbid a member of Knesset who is standing trial from receiving the mandate to form a government.

What's next: Netanyahu now has 28 days to try and form a government.

  • His only path to forming such a government is if he manages to convince the radical right wing "Religious Zionism" party, which consists of Jewish supremacists and Islamophobes, to sit together in the same coalition with the Islamic party — which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
  • If Netanyahu fails in forming a government, the Knesset will have 21 days to try and form an alternative coalition. If this fails too, Israel will go for a fifth election in September.
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