President Isaac Herzog consulted on Wednesday with representatives of the Likud, Yesh Atid, National Unity and Shas, as to whom he should award the mandate to form a government. The consultations are required by law, and will continue on Thursday and Friday mornings.
First to arrive at the President's Residence were Likud MKs Yair Levin, Eli Cohen and Miri Regev. The three recommended Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu as the next prime minister.
Herzog asked Levin and Regev about their plans for the upcoming government. One of the answers was “Jewish identity.” Herzog asked whether this was really an issue, as the country’s Jewish character was not in question. Regev responded that "a prime minister who did not go to the Western Wall" showed that there was a problem.
Regev also complained that the Center-Left was leading a "scare campaign" against the upcoming government in order to delegitimize it.
Regev: Netanyahu will treat all Israeli citizens as equals
Herzog then asked Regev about the lack of women in the upcoming coalition, which is expected to have just nine women out of 64 MKs. Regev answered that despite the dearth of women, she was certain that Netanyahu would treat all citizens as equals, without differences based on gender, race, religion or anything else.
Another problem discussed was personal safety. The Likud MKs said their plan was to strengthen the police. In response, Herzog asked about the State Attorney’s Office – also an important aspect of law enforcement – which the Likud attacked repeatedly during its campaign.
Herzog asked about what he called the “elephant in the room,” the Likud coalition’s plan to reform the judicial system. Herzog expressed concern that it might endanger minorities and their human rights. He encouraged dialogue between the branches of government instead of forced changes.
Levin argued that the current situation was that human rights were being violated by the court’s overreach, and that the plan to reform the judicial system was intended to restore balance.
Cohen promised Likud would “act responsibly and level-headedly” on these issues, but that there changes still needed to be made.
Yesh Atid says will be opposition to Likud gov't
Yesh Atid followed, represented by Economy Minister Orna Barbivay, Energy Minister Karin Elharrar and outgoing coalition whip MK Boaz Toporovsky. The three recommended current Prime Minister Yair Lapid to be the next prime minister.
Barbivay pledged that Yesh Atid would be an opposition to the government but not to the country, and blamed the Likud for opposing important legislation during the current government's tenure simply because it was the government that had initiated it.
Toporovsky addressed the claim that the outgoing coalition had treated the opposition unfairly by not giving it enough representation in the Knesset committees. The Likud and other opposition members ended up boycotting nearly all of the committees for the entirety of the 24th Knesset. Toporovsky said that the opposition was the one that decided that it did not want to participate and stopped negotiating, even though a compromise had been reached that was approved by the High Court.
They did not recommend anyone for prime minister, explaining that the party did not think there was any purpose in recommending anyone who had no way to form a government.
Asked why National Unity refused to consider entering a Netanyahu-led government, Ginzburg said the party tried this in 2020 and did not want to do so again. Elkin added that the party promised its voters not to enter a Netanyahu-led government. The party was not going to break that promise, Elkin said.
Elkin added that in the opposition it will fight for what is good for Israel, and would not automatically oppose anything the incoming government proposes.
Regarding the override clause, which will give the coalition power to override High Court rulings, a measure which all of the incoming coalition parties support, Ginzburg said the correct way forward was to build a complete Basic Law that regulates the relations between the legislative and judiciary branches.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar formed a committee composed of academics and experts to propose such a law, but it did not manage to finish its work, Ginzburg said. The incoming government should build on the country’s “accumulated knowledge,” Tamano-Shata added.
Tamano-Shata also addressed support within the Likud coalition for canceling the “grandchild clause” in the Law of Return, which says one Jewish grandparent bestows the right to Israeli citizenship, regardless of Halacha.
“The real question is conversion, not the grandfather clause,” she said. “Thousands of people want to be a part [of Judaism] but are not able to” due to stringent and inefficient conversion services. Instead of blocking people from making aliyah, the government should make it easier for those that are already here to convert, she argued.
Ginzburg later stated, “democracy is not just majority rule, it is also defending the rights of the minority, not by the government, which represents the majority, but by the judicial system.” He expressed concern that an override clause that does not leave checks and balances could undermine the courts.
Shas, represented by MKs Michael Malkieli, Yoav Ben-Tzur and Haim Biton, recommended Netanyahu, as expected.
Herzog announced earlier on Wednesday that he will award the mandate to form a government on Sunday. The announcement came after Herzog received the official election results from the Central Election Committee (CEC) on Wednesday morning.
The mandate will go to Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu, who will then have 28 days – Until December 10 – to form a government.
"I appeal to all elected officials and say: alongside a vibrant and vital political debate, alongside victories and decision-making, alongside a refusal to make concessions on one's worldview—it is absolutely forbidden under any circumstances to forgo our togetherness," Herzog said upon receiving the results.
"The responsibility for this lies with all of us, but in the political realm it lies first and foremost on every side in our legislature; on all the various factions.
“It is no secret that I have always believed, and still believe, in unity; but contrary to reports, I have not worked, nor am I working, to push for the establishment of any particular government, and I am not involved in its composition or size. I leave that task to the political system, and to it alone,” Herzog said.
Netanyahu began official coalition negotiations on Wednesday, after holding initial meetings with all of the party heads earlier this week. He met with Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich and the leaders of both factions that make up the Ashkenazi-haredi party United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Moshe Gafni of Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael’s Yitzhak Goldknopf.
Channel 12 reported that Netanyahu wants to swear in a government as early as next Wednesday with preliminary agreements, which will be expanded later.
Degel Hatorah announced last week that its MKs would become deputy ministers but not ministers, an expression of the party’s reservations about the state’s secular character.
In other news, Finance Minister and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio on Wednesday morning that “[Noam MK] Avi Maoz wants to form a unit for racial purity in the Prime Minister’s Office,” referring to Maoz’s reported coalition demand that he head a unit in the PMO dedicated to “strengthening Jewish identity and preventing foreign influences.”