Israel’s political structure is a mystery to most Americans. They vote for parties instead of candidates. Thirteen parties received enough votes in last month’s elections to earn seats in the Knesset. A coalition must be formed with over 50% of Knesset Members backing a Prime Minister. The President is not like our President and has very little power other than helping to form the government. And these are just a few of the things that differ from our own electoral process.
With that in mind, it’s understandable that supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including me, are not excited that he was tapped by President Reuven Rivlin first shot at forming the government. His chances of success are very slim; only 52 of the 120 incoming members support his leadership. 61 are required to form a government, and it’s not going to be easy to get the nine additional MKs to support him. Some have said it’s practically impossible.
He will have 28 days to do so. If he is unable to get the support he needs, Rivlin will likely offer the same opportunity to chairman of the Yesh Atid party Lair Yapid. The opposition leader was able to get recommendations from 45 MKs and has even less of a chance of getting 16 to come on board his coalition. But he will have one advantage by going second. Election fatigue set in long ago in Israel as their fourth election in two years has people demanding a resolution. Assuming Netanyahu fails to form a majority coalition, Yapid may be able to succeed our of national desperation.
“I am under the impression that none of the candidates have a chance to form a coalition,” Rivlin said.
The thing that holds back the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel history is his current criminal trial. According to Jerusalem Post:
Rivlin said that it is problematic to appoint a candidate with a criminal indictment and on trial, but the Supreme Court has ruled it permissible so he decided to stay out of that debate.
“The president cannot replace the legislators,” Rivlin said. “The decision to prevent a candidate under indictment from forming a government is the Knesset’s decision.”
He said that he decided not to take Netanyahu’s ongoing trial into consideration out of a desire to protect the office of the president which “receives the trust of the public.”
In Rivlin’s consultations with the 13 factions in the new Knesset, 52 MKs from four factions recommended Netanyahu, while 45 from five factions recommended Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Yamina recommended its leader, Naftali Bennett; Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope and the two Arab factions didn’t recommend anyone.
The most likely scenario is a fifth election in less than three years. This will make the future of Israel more clear and will be based on the outcome of Netanyahu’s trial. It’s confusing to most Americans, but it’s worked for Israel.