Loophole could give Netanyahu two more weeks to build coalition

Netanyahu may be able to bypass the time limit on building a coalition after reaching a stalemate in coalition talks with Liberman.

Benjamin Netanyahu  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The stalemate in coalition talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman continued over the weekend with mutual recriminations threatening Netanyahu’s ability to build a majority in the Knesset by Wednesday’s deadline.
Sources close to President Reuven Rivlin noted that he charged Netanyahu with building “the most wide and stable government possible.” Rivlin is not expected to make a statement about whether a coalition of 60 MKs without Yisrael Beytenu is acceptable.
But the sources revealed that according to the law, there is a loophole that could give Netanyahu another two weeks to form a government.
According to Basic Law: The Government, if the MK that the president chose to form a government fails to do so, the president may grant another MK four weeks to build a coalition. But if it is clear to him that there is no other MK who can do so, Rivlin, could recommend to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to disperse the Knesset and initiate an election within 100 days.
In such a scenario, a majority of the Knesset could then ask Rivlin to give Netanyahu another chance to build a coalition. Netanyahu would then be given 14 more days, and only if he fails would elections be initiated automatically.
Netanyahu convened all potential coalition partners for an emergency meeting on Thursday night, but Liberman refuse to attend. At the meeting, it become apparent that Netanyahu was seeking a coalition of 60 MKs without Yisrael Beytenu.
Liberman deflected charges from Netanyahu on Friday that he is preventing a right-wing coalition from being formed by not advancing coalition talks. He said that he had run coalition talks in the past, both for Likud and as the head of his current party, and he has never before seen coalition talks run so negligently.
“This is the price of arrogance,” Liberman said. “If we have to go to another election, it will be only because of the Likud conducting failed negotiations. It is no coincidence that this is the first time since the founding of state that someone who won a convincing victory is not able to form a government.”
Liberman also made it clear that if the draft law would go through as it was originally written up, Yisrael Beytenu would join the coalition. In a meeting with the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund on Friday, Liberman said that “There has never been a leader who has given more to the haredim than Netanyahu, since the days of the Second Temple.”
He also revealed that the Likud had spoken to him about forming a “different kind of government,” a reference to a national unity government including the Blue and White Party.
The Likud reacted to Liberman by saying that “The only overture of the party to him was and remains a right-wing government under Netanyahu.”
UTJ responded to Liberman that “Everyone with a brain understands that Liberman does not want to take part in Netanyahu’s government, and that is why he left it several months ago."
UTJ leaders Ya’acov Litzman and Moshe Gafni said in a statement that Liberman was using the conscription bill as an excuse to not join and to prevent a right-wing government’s formation.
“We have never, ever asked for Israel to become a state of Jewish law,” Litzman and Gafni said. “He wants to topple Netanyahu and form a left-wing government.”
Ilanit Chernick contributed to this report.