The formation of Israel's next coalition will officially begin this afternoon, as President Isaac Herzog will begin his consultations with the parties that will make up the next Knesset, over which MK to award the mandate to form a government.
Herzog will meet today with representatives of the Likud, Yesh Atid, National Unity and Shas; on Thursday with United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Religious Zionist Party (RZP), Yisrael Beytenu, Otzma Yehudit Hadash-Ta'al and Ra'am; and on Friday with Labor and Noam. RZP, Otzma Yehudit and Noam ran on the same list but decided to meet with the president separately.
Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu will likely receive 64 recommendations from all of the parties in his bloc and will be awarded the mandate to form a government. Labor announced that it would join Yesh Atid in recommending Prime Minister Yair Lapid, despite the tension between the two parties after Labor leader Merav Michaeli blamed Lapid on Thursday for the election's results. Yisrael Beytenu and Hadash-Ta'al and National Unity announced that they would not recommend anyone.
The Central Election Committee announced on Tuesday afternoon that it had completed the procedures to verify the election results, which have been ongoing since election day last Tuesday. The committee said it found no evidence of voter fraud or tampering.
Herzog and Lapid and Gantz all denied a report by Ynet on Tuesday that Herzog had reached out to incoming prime minister Netanyahu, Lapid and Gantz in "recent days" in order to encourage them to enter a unity government and not form a government with "extremist elements."
What did the President's office say?
The President's Office said, "Contrary to the report, the president did not reach out or ask any of the party leaders to join any form of government. It should be stressed that the consultation process in the President's residence will only start tomorrow [Wednesday], after which the mandate to form a government will be awarded."
Lapid's office said that Herzog "knows that there is no chance of this happening," KAN reported.
National Unity said, "The President did not turn to the Defense Minister and leader of National Unity [Gantz] on the topic of entering a unity government. We are heading to the opposition."
Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky claimed on Tuesday that Netanyahu was covertly trying to bring in Yesh Atid, National Unity or Yisrael Beytenu into the coalition.
"Bibi so badly wanted a right-wing government that now he is trying to get rid of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich," Malinovsky wrote on Twitter. "He is sending messengers to Lapid, to Gantz and to us to get him out of the hole he dug himself. I have news for you, it just won't happen," she wrote.
In other news, two issues are emerging as central to coalition talks which officially began on Sunday: Who the next Finance Minister will be, and will Netanyahu enable the coalition to pass the Override Bill, and if so, what the bill will include.
Yaakov Rivlin of Kol Hai Radio reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu was encouraging Shas leader Yaakov Deri to demand the Finance Ministry, so as to block RZP leader Smotrich from doing so. Smotrich reportedly demanded either the finance or defense ministries, and if Deri receives the finance ministry it is likely that Smotrich will have to suffice with a "second tier" ministry, such as education or transportation.
It is unclear whether Deri can serve as a minister since he agreed to a plea deal last year for tax violations, which may include moral turpitude, which would block him from serving as a minister. Deri resigned from the Knesset after signing the deal, so the issue of whether his actions included moral turpitude has yet to be decided.