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Israeli President meets party leaders

For the first time in Israel’s history, President Reuven Rivlin’s post-election meetings with party leaders will be broadcast live so the Israeli public can see how the Government is formed.

Party representatives will meet with President Rivlin today and tomorrow in descending order of seats won in the election. Likud met with the President at 09:15, followed by Blue White at 10:00, ultra-Orthodox factions Shas at 10:45 and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) at 11:30, and the Arab Hadash-Ta’al party at 12:15. On Tuesday, Rivlin will meet with representatives of the Labour party at 9:15, followed by Yisrael Beiteinu at 10:00, the United Right party at 10:45, Meretz party at 11:30, Kulanu at 12:15, and the Arab Ra’am-Balad faction at 13:00.

At the end of consultations, Rivlin will formally ask a party leader to form a government and they have 28 days to conclude coalition deals with other parties, according to Israel’s Basic Law. If required, the President can extend that period by 14 days. It is assumed that he will ask incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government.

The ultra-Orthodox parties, Kulanu, and the United Right have all said they intend to recommend that Netanyahu be the next Prime Minister, giving him a total of 60 seats. The Likud’s main concern is that Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman has yet to commit. According to Yediot Ahronoth, a senior Likud figure said that Lieberman was unpredictable: “It’s hard to know what’s going on in Lieberman’s mind and we don’t know what he will do.” The paper also quotes Lieberman from a private meetings, saying: “It isn’t clear if we’ll be able to form a government with the ultra-Orthodox—their appetite is at a peak.” Lieberman ostensibly left the last government after disagreement with the ultra-Orthodox parties over legislation exempting religious students military conscription.

Lieberman is expected to demand the defence ministry as well as another senior position, but he has also set conditions regarding a change of policy towards Gaza and Hamas.

Blue White leader Benny Gantz said in media interviews yesterday: “As I see it, Netanyahu is going to put together a coalition that will be busy with fortifying his legal position and in the end will distance Israel from law and democracy.”