Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu has until midnight a week from Wednesday to form a government, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog announced on Friday.
Herzog awarded Netanyahu a ten-day extension to his initial 28 days, which expires on Sunday at midnight. On Thursday evening, Netanyahu asked for the full 14-day extension permitted by law but he was given only 10 days, although he will be able to get the additional four days if necessary.
Herzog explained in his letter to Netanyahu granting the extension that his decision was based on the “purpose of the paragraphs concerning the formation of a government in Basic Law: The Government,” which was “to bring about the formation of a government that will secure the confidence of the Knesset, and to do so as soon as possible.”
“When you expressed your consent to form a government at the President’s Residence Sunday, 19 Heshvan 5783, 13 November 2022, you said that you would form a government that would work for the sake of the whole nation,” Herzog said.
“These are complicated times for Israeli society, as arguments over fundamental issues threaten to cause fissures and inflame violence and baseless hatred,” he said.
“Therefore, and in the spirit of your above-mentioned remarks, I wish to repeat my call, issued on the day of the swearing-in of the Knesset, that the government that is set to be formed must work for the entire public in Israel and that the coalition being formed must maintain a respectful and responsible dialogue between the authorities – executive, legislature and judiciary; must guarantee the State of Israel’s character in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and must preserve the powerful bond with the Jewish Diaspora.”
Herzog also held a telephone conversation with Netanyahu on Friday informing him of the decision, the Likud said.
It was not immediately clear why the president specifically chose ten days.
Politicians from the anti-Netanyahu bloc, including Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Transportation Minister and Labor chairwoman Merav Michaeli urged Herzog last week not to grant the request. They argued that the extension was not justified, as the parties had already agreed on which jobs each one will receive, and were planning to use the extension for legislative purposes. Herzog did not officially address these claims.
Where does the coalition stand as of now?
The Likud so far has signed three detailed jobs appendixes – with the Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit and Noam – and two letters agreeing on central appointments, with United Torah Judaism and Shas. No final agreements have been signed, however. These will include budget commitments to the parties, as well as the incoming government’s ideological and legislative guidelines.
The incoming coalition is expected to choose a new Knesset speaker on Monday. It is then expected to begin fast-tracking the laws it vowed to pass before the government is sworn in. These include the “Deri Law” to enable Shas chairman MK Arye Deri to serve as a minister despite the suspended jail sentence he received as part of a plea bargain in January, and a law that will give Otzma Yehudit chairman and incoming National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir more power over the Israel Police.
After announcing that he has reached agreements with all of the parties, Netanyahu will have a week to bring the government to the Knesset for approval. The ten-day extension ends on December 21, and therefore the latest date for the government to be sworn in is December 28.