House committee approves bill to disperse the Knesset, December 26th, 2018..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The polls may have closed on Tuesday night, but there is still a long road ahead before we know the final outcome. Nothing is official yet: not the results of the election, the identity of the next prime minister or the makeup of the coalition.
There are, of course, reasonable predictions to be made. Likud leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have a much easier path to forming a coalition than Blue and White leader Benny Gantz does, making Netanyahu remaining in office the most likely scenario.
Netanyahu also has the threat of indictment hovering over his head and influencing his decision. While he could form a national unity government with Blue and White, some of the senior members of that bloc have entirely ruled out the option in recent weeks. And if Netanyahu is indicted, they would not remain in his coalition. The parties on the Right, however, have said that they would follow the letter of the law, which allows a prime minister to remain in office until he is convicted after appeal; in fact, Netanyahu plans to ask coalition partners to agree to do so, as a condition of being in his government.
But that is likely weeks away. Before that, all eyes will be on President Reuven Rivlin.
The “double envelope” votes of soldiers, diplomats, Jewish Agency emissaries, sailors, women in battered women’s shelters and people in prison and in hospitals will be counted by early Thursday morning, which could shift the expected makeup of the Knesset. In the last election, UTJ and the Joint List lost seats because of the double envelopes, and the Likud and Meretz each gained. In 2013, UAL-Ta’al lost a seat, which went to Bayit Yehudi. This time, the change may be more drastic, because the New Right is on the cusp of getting in, which would shuffle four whole seats.
After its membership is confirmed, the 21st Knesset is expected to be sworn in at the end of the month, with a delay due to Passover.
In the meantime, Rivlin plans to start meeting with representatives of all the parties that made it into the Knesset next week. Basic Law: Government says the president must appoint the prime minister within a week of the official results being publicized.
At this point, it looks like Netanyahu will get the recommendations of 61 MKs – so far Shas, UTJ, URP and Kulanu said they would give him the nod, and with the Likud, that’s already 60 – and then Rivlin will task him with forming the government, but negotiations are still ongoing. The law does not actually say the president has to do what the majority of MKs recommend, though that is what has happened historically. This has been a matter of much concern for Netanyahu, who said repeatedly when campaigning that Rivlin will go with Gantz, if Blue and White is bigger than the Likud, regardless of the recommendations.
Whoever is given the task of putting the coalition together then has 42 days to get the job done – 28 days and then an up-to-14-day extension, which would likely bring us to May 30. Then the government is presented to the Knesset, which votes whether to approve it or not, and ministers are sworn in.
The law addresses some less likely scenarios as well. If, by some chance, a government is not formed by that deadline, or if the appointed prime minister notifies the president that he cannot form a government, the president must consult with the parties again, and within three days he must choose a different MK to form the government or tell the Knesset speaker that he does not see an option to form a government. The different MK has 28 days to form a government. If he cannot manage, or if the president already told the Knesset speaker he does not see a way to form a government, MKs can recommend someone else to form the government, with a 14-day deadline to do so. If those options don’t work out, then another election is called to take place 90 days later.
What this tells us is that, in the most likely scenario, it could take close to two months until the final results of this election are clear. Election Day may be behind us, but there are still plenty of political machinations ahead.
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