Presidential recommendations for Israel's next gov't to go down to wire

Lapid reports significant progress in talks with Bennett

THE KNESSET building in Jerusalem holds one of the world’s smallest legislatures. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THE KNESSET building in Jerusalem holds one of the world’s smallest legislatures.
President Reuven Rivlin will host the 13 factions elected to the Knesset at the President’s Residence on Tuesday and ask them who they recommend to form the next government and who they rule out.
He will be meeting with the factions in order of size, starting with Likud, followed by Yesh Atid, Shas, Blue and White, Yamina, United Torah Judaism, Labor, Yisrael Beytenu, the Religious Zionist Party, Joint List, New Hope, Meretz and Ra’am (United Arab List).
Rivlin will announce who will receive his mandate either on Tuesday, when the new Knesset will be sworn in, or on Wednesday, taking into account which candidate received the most recommendations but deciding based on who could best form a stable government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the support of 52 MKs from Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and the Religious Zionist Party.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid will be endorsed by the 45 MKs of his Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu, Labor, Meretz and most likely, Blue and White and possibly five of the six MKs in the Joint List.
Political kingmakers Naftali Bennett and Mansour Abbas remained undecided late Sunday night, with Bennett leaning toward recommending himself and Abbas likely to not endorse anyone. New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar could end up endorsing Bennett.
In a speech to activists at Moshav Azarya on Sunday night, Sa’ar said: “I am working to ensure that there will be a government of change that will replace Netanyahu, a government of reconciliation that will heal relations of brothers in Israeli society and restore values of truth.”
“New Hope is not for sale for political posts,” Sa’ar said. “We won’t concede on our values.”
KAN reported that Lapid said in private conversations that significant progress has been made in talks with Bennett. According to the report, Lapid said Bennett told him he knows not to trust the promises of Netanyahu.
“We can form a government with him,” Lapid was quoted saying of Bennett. “The haredim will come a day after it’s formed.”
But Shas and UTJ said Sunday that they would oppose a coalition with Lapid, even it is not led by him. Bennett has reportedly proposed a coalition of Yamina, New Hope, Blue and White, Yesh Atid, Shas, UTJ and Labor that would have 61 MKs and leave out the anti-haredi Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz.
Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich warned Bennett in a speech at the Knesset on Sunday not to give in to left-wing pressure.
“Don’t prevent a right-wing government from being formed,” Smotrich said. “Recommending anyone other than Netanyahu, including yourself, helps bring the Left to power.”
Labor leader Merav Michaeli warned on Sunday that Blue and White could end up joining another government led by Netanyahu. She expressed concern about a statement that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz made on Saturday night at the Mimouna celebrations of the Ben Yishai family in Moshav Menahemya in the North.
“A catastrophe will befall us if a far-right government led by Netanyahu is formed, with racist elements, without a balance that will protect the well-being of the citizens,” Gantz said.
Michaeli accused Gantz of “laying the groundwork to once again steal your votes.” She said what should happen is that the 61 MKs from parties that said they wanted to replace Netanyahu in the election should form a coalition and a government together “before Gantz once again crowns Bibi.”
Those 61 MKs include political kingmakers Naftali Bennett and Mansour Abbas.
“Merav, the election is over, so you can stop the mudslinging,” Blue and White tweeted in response. “We will not sit under Netanyahu and we will do everything possible to remove him from office. If you’re looking for likes on Twitter, don’t do it at our expense.”