Israel's King Bibi Netanyahu is back: What comes next? - comment

Despite the fact that nothing untoward was anticipated, and that the texts of the addresses by both men would be released by the Government Press Office, the media presence was overwhelming.  

 Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is seen having received the mandate to form a new government from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on November 13, 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is seen having received the mandate to form a new government from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on November 13, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

If it seemed that media interest in Benjamin Netanyahu had abated somewhat after he ceased his role as prime minister and became leader of the opposition, that interest was back with a bang on Sunday when President Isaac Herzog gave Netanyahu the mandate to form a new government.

Despite the fact that nothing untoward was anticipated – the texts of the addresses by both men would be released by the Government Press Office – the media presence was overwhelming. 

“There are more people here than came for Trump.”

Sharon Marks Altshul

“There are more people here than came for Trump,” remarked stills photographer Sharon Marks Altshul.

Indeed there were. Quite a lot had been confined to an outdoor tent during the visit last July by US President Joe Biden, but many more were there when then-president Donald Trump came to Israel in May 2017 and met with then-president Reuven Rivlin in the same hall, filled mainly by media personnel on Sunday.

 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)

Just before 12:30 p.m., the door of the small reception room that leads to the main hall opened. Eyal Shviki, director-general of the President’s Residence, and Tzachi Braverman, who had been cabinet secretary under the previous Netanyahu administration, strode out followed by Herzog and Netanyahu, who were almost identically dressed in muted navy blue suits, white shirts and bright marine blue ties.

They both made statements about the elections having been held in accordance with the democratic process and, as he has done in the past, Netanyahu said that he was going to be the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel – those who voted for him and those who did not.

A certain irony in Herzog giving Netanyahu the mandate

There was a certain irony in the occasion as Herzog had been leader of the Labor Party and of the opposition when Netanyahu was in a previous prime ministerial post – and when Herzog was inaugurated as president, and addressed various dignitaries in the Knesset by name, he reminded Netanyahu, who was then-opposition leader, that he had also been in his position.

If Netanyahu does succeed in forming a government, there is speculation as to where he will reside.

The Prime Minister’s Residence, which is only a few minutes’ walk away from the President’s Residence, is currently undergoing extensive repairs and renovations that were neglected during the terms of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, neither of whom occupied the premises.

 A lot of the contents from the Prime Minister’s Residence have been discarded over the past week or so. On Sunday morning, there was a huge dumpster outside the rear entrance, the kind used by building contractors. Standing alongside it was one of those extra-large metal hanukkiot that are put up all over the country and in many parts of the Jewish world by Chabad. It looked somewhat the worse for wear, and its fate has remained undetermined.