President Reuven Rivlin..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
President Reuven Rivlin has begun preparing for the task of deciding who the next prime minister of Israel will be after the March 17 election, sources close to him said Monday.
The law gives Rivlin the right to decide which party leader can form the most stable coalition. In most cases, presidents have given the task of forming the new government to the party leader who receives the most recommendations from MKs or the leader of the largest political bloc.
The sources said that if no candidate receives recommendations from a majority of the 120 MKs and there is no clear bloc of 61, the size of the largest faction could determine whether Rivlin selects Likud leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog, the leaders of the two parties likely to win the most votes.
Rivlin will insist on every faction giving a firm recommendation, the sources said.
The president will not accept factions sitting on the fence or refusing to recommend anyone, as multiple faction heads have considered doing.
Netanyahu’s strategist, Aron Shaviv, tweeted Monday that if the prime minister forms the next government, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett would be the first faction head he invites into his coalition.
After the last election, Netanyahu called all the heads of the Zionist factions except for Bennett, due to a personal dispute with him.
The Bayit Yehudi campaign responded to Netanyahu’s statements that their party would be in the coalition by releasing a video comprised of past news reports, first of Labor led by Ehud Barak joining the Netanyahu government in 2009 and then of Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, becoming the first party in the coalition in 2013.
“Didn’t vote for Bayit Yehudi? You put the Left in the government, again. A large Bayit Yehudi or a government with the Left,” the video concludes.
Herzog told pupils at Ramat Gan’s Blich High School on Monday that Netanyahu “decided to form a coalition of desperation, but if we get more mandates, we will build a coalition of hope.”
A source close to Herzog said his strategy was to ensure that his faction would be larger than the Likud. The source expressed confidence that the Likud’s satellite parties on the Right would take away more votes than Labor will lose to its allies on the Left and in the Center.
Zionist Union officials said their party is also taking votes away from the Likud among so-called “soft Likudniks who are massively disappointed with Netanyahu.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.