President Reuven Rivlin formally offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the opportunity to form a government at the President’s Residence on Wednesday night, initiating up to six weeks of coalition talks.
Netanyahu formed governments in 1996, 2009, 2013 and 2015. In his speech accepting the president’s appointment, Netanyahu vowed to serve both those who voted for him in the April 9 election and those who did not.“There is no bigger honor in a democracy,” Netanyahu said. “I am just as excited as the first time, if not more.”Rivlin called on Netanyahu to heal the rifts exacerbated by the election, in which he said there were things said by all sides that should not have been said.“You received for the fifth time the trust of this precious nation,” Rivlin said. “The time of us and them is over, and now it is just we.”Rivlin lamented that the new Knesset, which will be sworn in on April 30, will have only 28 women, down from 35. With none of the Likud’s prospective coalition partners expected to appoint female ministers, it is likely that there will be only three women among the 26 in the cabinet and none in the security cabinet.“I hope that the new Knesset and government will include women ministers and committee chairwomen, and ensure that the voice of women is present and clearly heard,” Rivlin said.Sources close to Netanyahu said that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who will not be in the next Knesset, will be replaced in her post by Likud Minister Yariv Levin or Union of Right-Wing Parties cochairman Bezalel Smotrich. In either case, the justice minister will fiercely oppose judicial activism and enact far-reaching reforms in the legal system. The coalition guidelines will reportedly include enacting a bill giving the Knesset the power to override decisions by the Supreme Court to veto bills.In the previous coalition, Kulanu blocked moves that it perceived as harming the Supreme Court and legal establishment. But Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon has said that after winning four seats, he no longer will be able to demand such power.Kulanu faction chairman Roy Folkman said Kulanu could enter a coalition with the override bill in its guidelines and would not veto Smotrich or Levin as justice minister.“We do not decide who gets what position, and we are not in the habit of disqualifying people,” Folkman said. “It is actions that matter.”Netanyahu will meet soon with Kahlon, who returned to Israel from abroad late Wednesday. Levin, who will head the Likud’s coalition negotiating team, said negotiations would begin only after Netanyahu meets with all the heads of the parties that could join the coalition.Rivlin said he hopes Netanyahu will form a “large and stable government that will reflect the will of the nation as much as possible.”
Rivlin consults with parties on prime minister nomination, April 16, 2019 (Reuters)