Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his ballot for the parliamentary election as his son Yair stands behind him at a polling station in Jerusalem March 17, 2015..
(photo credit: SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/POOL VIA REUTERS)
On April 9, more than six million voters will be eligible to select among the 46 parties currently running and competing for their votes.
But with all due respect, only one voter will decide Israel’s next prime minister: President Reuven Rivlin.
Following the election, the heads of the parties that crossed the 3.25% electoral threshold will make their way to the President’s Residence and announce their recommendations, most of which will be extremely obvious.
Likud, the New Right, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beytenu and the Union of Right-Wing Parties have announced that they will recommend another term for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon and Gesher head Orly Levy-Abecassis have indicated that they would prefer Netanyahu as well.
Only Blue and White, Labor and Meretz will recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. The two Arab lists will not recommend anyone.
With that in mind, the polls over the weekend indicate that an unprecedented political stalemate is looking increasingly likely.
For the first time, Netanyahu’s Right bloc lacks the 61 MKs needed to form a government. The Center-Left has 61, but the Arab parties have said they would not enter a coalition led by Gantz any more than they would join Netanyahu.
What would Rivlin do in such a scenario?
Channel 12 political correspondent Amit Segal reported on Sunday night that Rivlin has said he would call back the party heads and ask them not who they recommend, but who they do not rule out. Whoever then gets the most recommendations would be given a chance to form the next coalition.
In that case, if they cross the threshold, Kulanu and Gesher could be counted on both sides. No other parties are that politically flexible.
Channel 13 political analyst Raviv Drucker reported on Sunday night that Rivlin could then compel Netanyahu and Gantz to form a government together, and then let them fight over who would come first in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Let’s just hope we don’t end up with additional elections,” Drucker said, while Segal said recently on air that if additional elections are held, he would move to a different country.
But Rivlin might have no choice. If no party leader crosses the Rubicon, breaks his campaign promises and goes against his ideology, a second election in 2019 is looking increasingly possible, if current polls hold true.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz would be given a chance – and six weeks – to form a coalition first. If they both fail and no other candidate emerges, Rivlin could initiate another election by the end of July that would be held 90-something days later.
A fitting date would be Tuesday, November 5, the day the election was supposed to be held in the first place, before Netanyahu decided to advance the race due to the criminal probes – which could end up making the process of electing a new prime minister more complicated than ever.
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