Netanyahu fails to form government, returns mandate to president

What happened: After 28 days Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form the next government expired at midnight last night.

  • The mandate returned to President Rivlin who must now decide whether to task another MK to try and form a government or pass the mandate over to the Knesset.
  • This morning the President confirmed that he will meet with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid today. The President’s Office said: “Additional meetings will be scheduled according to requests from party heads and at the president’s discretion.”
  • Last night Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said: “Today I spoke with all of the pro-change party leaders and asked all of them to recommend that MK Lapid be given the mandate to form the government. The Israeli people have taken one blow after another: a pandemic, unemployment, ugly politics, loss of faith in leadership, and deep polarisation. The red line is behind us. We can work everything out within a matter of hours. It is our duty to form a government as swiftly as possible for the sake of the State of Israel and all of its citizens.”
  • Gantz appealed directly to Ahmed Tibi, leader of the Arab Movement for Renewal (within the Joint List faction), saying: “Stand behind Lapid, otherwise the light will go out here for many more years to come.”
  • This morning Gideon Saar, the leader of New Hope, said that he supports Lapid’s candidacy to receive the mandate next. Saar’s party refused to endorse any candidate during their consultation with Rivlin last month.
  • Meanwhile, MK Amichai Chikli, who was fifth on the Yamina list, has released a letter in which he says he could not back a unity government with left-wing parties.

Context: Netanyahu failed to form a government because the Religious Zionists Party refused to be part of a government supported by Raam, the Islamic United Arab List.

  • The Likud has formally blamed Bennett, releasing a statement: “Due to Bennett’s refusal to commit to a right-wing government, which would certainly have led to the formation of a government, the prime minister returned the mandate back to the president.”
  • With the loss of the mandate, Netanyahu will also now lose control over the Arrangements Committee in the Knesset. Theoretically, bills that would block Netanyahu from future bids to be the prime minister can now be advanced.
  • The president is expected to give the mandate to Lapid, but Rivlin does have other options, given the possibility that the Likud and other right-wing parties recommend Bennett.
  • Even if Lapid is given the mandate, he could agree to a rotation agreement whereby Bennett serves first as prime minister.
  • Lapid’s potential coalition with two centrist parties (Yesh Atid’s 17 seats and Blue and White’s 8 seats) plus two left-wing parties (Labour’s 7 seats and Meretz’s 6 seats) and three right-wing parties (Yamina’s 7 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu’s 7 seats and New Hope’s 6 seats) is only 58 seats and so will still require additional support from either Arab or ultra-Orthodox parties.
  • Lapid is seeking the support from the Joint List Party, or at least from MKs Ahmed Tibi and Osama Saadi, who represent the Arab Movement for Renewal faction within the Joint List.
  • In addition, both Bennett and Lapid are appealing to the leader of Raam, Mansour Abbas, for his endorsement.
  • In another possible scenario, Rivlin could return the mandate to the Knesset, rather than appointing an individual MK to form a coalition. In that case, a candidate would need signed pledges from at least 61 MKs.

Looking ahead: The president has three days in which to decide where the mandate will go. If he decides to give it to Lapid or Bennett, they will have another 28 days to present a government.

  • If they fail, the mandate is then returned to the Knesset for 21 days. If no candidate gets the required number of signatures, the Knesset will automatically dissolve, and a fifth election will be held.

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