Benjamin Netanyahu gets mandate from Rivlin to form 5th government

New court challenges to wait until after government formed

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in protective mask, attends the session of the Knesset plenum, May 7, 2020 (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - ADINA WALLMAN)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in protective mask, attends the session of the Knesset plenum, May 7, 2020
Prescient Reuven Rivlin officially granted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a two-week mandate on Thursday night to form his fifth straight government, which would keep him in power until November 13, 2021.
"I hope Israel will soon have a government that will deal successfully with the complex challenges that stand before us," Rivlin said, noting the dual crises of the political stalemate and the impact of the coronavirus.
Representatives of Likud and Blue and White submitted 72 signatures of MKs recommending that Netanyahu form the government to Rivlin late afternoon on Thursday after all the bills required to form the government passed by a wide margin. The signatures came from Blue and White, Labor and Netanyahu's Right-Center bloc, except for the MKs of Yamina, who absented themselves, because it is still unknown whether it will enter the coalition.
Netanyahu and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett failed to make any progress in a conversation on Thursday. Sources close to Netanyahu said afterward that it was final that Yamina would remain in the opposition, because of the party's unrealistic demands at a time when there is a shortage of portfolios for Likud ministers.
Talks will continue over the weekend between Likud and Blue and White negotiating teams to decide the final make-up of portfolios, so the new government can be sworn in on Wednesday, giving Israel its first fully functioning government since December 2018. Blue and White offered Likud several combinations of portfolios in return for the Health Ministry, which Blue and White wants to give to a professional appointment, such as Galilee Medical Center director-general Dr Masad Barhoum or Sheba Medical Center director-general Yitshak Kreiss.
The same MKs who recommended Netanyahu to Rivlin voted for the bills, which were necessary for Blue and White to be able to recommend Netanyahu to form a government by Thursday night's deadline to prevent a fourth election.
Presumptive opposition leader Yair Lapid responded that "never have so few people misled so many people for such pathetic reasons."
Immediately after the bills passed, the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel filed a new petition to the High Court of Justice to strike the provision of the coalition deal that dictates that Netanyahu will become vice premier in November 2021 as unconstitutional since there is a bribery indictment pending against him.
The Movement said that it could refile the day after the High Court rejected its initial position on the issue because now the Knesset held a vote on the change.
The High Court of Justice rejected a request by the Movement to freeze the legislative changes pending the petition as premature. Justice George Kara said that the state did not even need to respond until May 28, which effectively pushes the issue off until the government should be formed and functioning.
The Meretz party also filed a petition against the rotation and other aspects of the coalition deal given the Knesset vote to move them forward. The High Court is expected to reject both petitions as still far too premature.
The law that passed would enable Netanyahu to remain prime minister for a year and half, followed by Gantz, but the term could be extended to four and a half years. Both will have veto power over legislation. It also cancels an existing law limiting the number of ministers that can be appointed.
One clause that was initially in the bill but was removed was a new version of the so-called "Norwegian Law" which normally allows ministers to quit the Knesset and be replaced by the next candidates on their party list. The special version would allow only loyalists of Gantz in Blue and White to enter the Knesset, while skipping over candidates from the Yesh Atid and Telem parties, which are in the opposition.
Blue and White decided not to adopt the special version, fearing that the Supreme Court would disqualify it. Instead, the normal version of the Norwegian Law is expected to be passed soon, which would allow up to six ministers from a party to quit and give Blue and White more MKs who are not ministers to do the party's work in the Knesset.
Among the Blue and White candidates set to enter the Knesset are Diaspora Affairs and moderate religious Zionism advocate Tehila Friedman and former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler’s daughter, attorney Michal Cotler-Wunsh.
Cotler-Wunsh is the legal adviser of the Goldin and Shaul families who are trying to bring back the bodies of their sons that are being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.