Netanyahu tapped to form gov't, promises to be PM for all of Israel

Netanyahu now has 28 days to negotiate with coalition partners and inform Herzog that he has formed a government.

 Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives mandate to form a government from President Isaac Herzog, November 13, 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives mandate to form a government from President Isaac Herzog, November 13, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu officially received the mandate to form a government from President Isaac Herzog on Sunday, after receiving 64 recommendations in consultations Herzog held last week with representatives of all of the parties who will serve in the incoming Knesset.

After thanking the parties for their recommendations and pointing out that Netanyahu received far more recommendations than anyone else, Herzog also said he was "not unaware" of Netanyahu's ongoing corruption trial, but that the High Court had ruled in the past that this was not a barrier to awarding Netanyahu the mandate.

"Even if there are differences of opinion between parts of the people on fundamental issues, there are more than enough issues around which the vast majority can unite and agree. We are brothers, we are meant to live side by side."

Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

 "The State of Israel requires a government that even if its composition does not reflect all worldviews and sections of the legislature, nevertheless knows to lead a process of connection and unification—between all parts of our people—and to conduct a responsible, cautious, open, frank, and attentive dialogue with the other branches of government," Herzog said.

 Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives mandate to form a government from President Isaac Herzog, November 13, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives mandate to form a government from President Isaac Herzog, November 13, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

"It is important that we remember: we, as a people, have no room for critical mistakes. Every government must behave with immense caution on matters of fateful importance for our existence, for the defense of our security, and for the preservation of our most fundamental contours as a Jewish and democratic state," Herzog added.

Herzog called Netanyahu an "experienced public servant who has served in a plethora of senior roles in our country," and concluded that " the foremost task … is to lead a government and a coalition that will be conscious of the immense responsibility assigned to them, and to the fact that elections in Israel are not a zero-sum game."

Netanyahu dismisses 'prophecies of doom'

Netanyahu responded by saying that he was as excited to receive the mandate this time as he was the first time he received it, back in 1996.

"Voters have given unequivocal trust in me and Likud, as well as in the parties partnering with us. But I want to say: I intend to be the prime minister of everyone - those who voted for me, and those who did not vote for me," he said.

"Even if there are differences of opinion between parts of the people on fundamental issues, there are more than enough issues around which the vast majority can unite and agree. We are brothers, we are meant to live side by side," Netanyahu added.

"There are many who welcome the election results - but there are also those who utter prophecies of doom and frighten the public. This is not the first time such things have been said. They said it about [former prime minister Menachem] Begin, and they said it about me too. It was not true then, and it is not true today," Netanyahu said.

In response to Netanyahu receiving the mandate, Yesh Atid released a statement calling it "a black day for Israel's democracy in which an incoming prime minister is being extorted by his partners, whose whole joint goal is to rescue him from his trial and bring the State of Israel backward.

"We will never give up on our country, on its liberal values and we will not allow the future of our children to be harmed – we will fight, united, in the Knesset, at public squares and on bridges until we replace this government of destruction with a government of change," they concluded.

Netanyahu now has 28 days to announce to Herzog that he had formed a government. He may receive an additional 14 days if necessary. The new government is expected to take over far sooner than that, however, as coalition negotiations are already underway and agreements have already been reached.

Netanyahu reportedly wants to swear in the new government as soon as possible, even without fully formed coalition agreements, but it is not clear whether this will happen.

Coalition negotiations pick up the pace

Shas chair MK Arye Deri informed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that he has decided to request the position of Finance Minister in the new governing coalition, Channel 12 reported on Sunday morning.

This comes after reports that Religious Zionist Party chair Bezalel Smotrich was also seriously considering the position for himself.

 Head of the Religious Zionist party Bezalel Smotrich speaks to supporters as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, at the party's campaign headquarters, November 1, 2022. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90) Head of the Religious Zionist party Bezalel Smotrich speaks to supporters as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, at the party's campaign headquarters, November 1, 2022. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

This does not mean that Deri will receive the position, as coalition negotiations are ongoing. However, it is a significant step, as he is reportedly set to receive the first choice of ministerial positions.

The Religious Zionist Party responded to Deri's decision, saying: "Bezalel Smotrich is the next Defense Minister. RZP will demand the Defense, Education and Religious Affairs ministry, as well as detailed coalition agreements that include budgetary agreements regarding returning personal safety, fixing the judicial system, regulating settlements and strengthening the country's Jewish identity."

It is unclear whether Netanyahu will agree to appoint Smotrich as Defense Minister, as he reportedly wanted to keep the position within the Likud, presumably for MK Yoav Gallant.

"It is a black day for Israel's democracy in which an incoming prime minister is being extorted by his partners, whose whole joint goal is to rescue him from his trial and bring the State of Israel backward."

Yesh Atid

RZP's demand for "detailed coalition agreements" indicates that it will not agree to Netanyahu's request to form the government without full coalition agreements and only afterward to hash out the details.

Deri deliberated over the weekend whether he wanted the position and consulted with a number of experts, KAN reported.

Deri also met with Shas' Council of Torah Sages on Saturday night in order to review the party's demands in coalition negotiations and the ministerial portfolios that Shas was offered. The council urged Deri to "continue negotiating in order to achieve the most for the benefit of all of the people of Israel," Shas said in a statement.

It is thus not clear if Deri is legally able to serve as a minister. This depends on a decision by Central Election Committee head High Court Justice Yizhak Amit whether his actions did or did not include moral turpitude.

If Amit decides that Deri is barred from serving as a minister, Shas may demand to change the law so that he will be able to run.

A group called "Liberals in the Likud" sent a letter to Netanyahu opposing Deri's appointment on the grounds that Deri held left-wing economic views.

"Arye Deri is known as a staunch economic leftist, who distributes Israeli taxpayer's money in order to advance sectoral initiatives that do not assist Israel's growth or welfare," the group wrote.

"This appointment will cause broad, completely justified protest of the general public and specifically of the public that supports a free economy … We did not vote for the Likud in order to receive the economic policy of [the left-wing] Meretz or the Labor Party," the group added.

The opposition in the meanwhile also began to organize on Sunday.

Yesh Atid faction head MK Boaz Toporovsky announced on Sunday that he would be meeting this week with all of the incoming opposition's party faction heads in order to discuss how the opposition will operate. The party leaders also held a joint meeting on Sunday, after which Yesh Atid put out a statement that the meeting had been "part of the aspiration to plan and organize together the opposition to the extremist and dark government that is expected to form."

The opposition's party leaders will meet again on Tuesday, prior to the opening ceremony of the incoming Knesset, Yesh Atid said.

It remains unclear how close the participation will be between the Arab parties, Hadash-Ta'al and Ra'am, and the rest of the opposition. Toporovsky met individually with Hadash-Ta'al number two MK Ahmad Tibi to discuss this. Later in the day, Ra'am MK Walid Taha wrote on Twitter that he had also met with Toporovsky, and made it clear that "Ra'am was never part of a bloc, and will formulate its positions and decide on its next steps according to the acute topics in the Arab sector."