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Party leaders try to maximise their support ahead of consultations with President Rivlin

What happened: The Central Elections Committee formally presented President Reuven Rivlin with the official election results this morning.

  • Ahead of the president’s consultation process, a flurry of meetings have taken place between party leaders, both informal and formal, to try and build a coalition majority of 61 MKs after the inconclusive results of the 23 March election.
  • In a public exchange, Gideon Saar, the leader of New Hope, wrote on Twitter last night: “On election night a week ago I said we would act without ego to form a government of change. Today it is my duty to say: the game of collecting recommendations won’t result in a government being formed; rather, only a purposeful and swift effort to establish a realistic parliamentary majority. The window of opportunity is limited in time. @yairlapid, I’ve set my ego aside. Now it’s your turn.”
  • Lapid wrote back on Twitter a few minutes later: “I said during the election campaign and I’ll say now as well — the country is more important than my personal aspirations or those of anyone else. The task facing the ‘bloc of change’ for this coming week is to avert the danger of the president tasking Netanyahu with forming the government. For that not to happen, all of the ‘bloc of change’ parties need to endorse Yesh Atid, the largest party in the bloc. The moment the process begins, everything will be on the table. We’ll be prepared to make painful concessions, the main thing is to form a government of change and to get to work to heal the country from two years of social and political crisis.”
  • Saar responded to Lapid, writing: “The stage for concessions is now. Later may be too late.”
  • Meanwhile, everyone is courting Raam, the pragmatic Islamist party that won four seats in the election and could push either the pro-Netanyahu bloc or the ‘bloc for change’ over the 61-majority threshold. Yesterday, its leader Mansour Abbas met with Labour leader Merav Michaeli and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
  • Israeli media suggests that Abbas is also talking with Shas leader Arye Deri. Raam party officials are allegedly leaning towards supporting the pro-Netanyahu bloc from outside the coalition.
  • On Monday Gantz called on Lapid, Bennett, and Saar to hold a four-way meeting and find a way to replace Netanyahu.

Context: At issue are two processes: the first is to receive the mandate from the president; and the second is the attempt to form a viable coalition.

  • At this point it is still unclear who will be given the mandate first to form a government.
  • Netanyahu has a firm 52 backers, while currently Lapid only has the guaranteed endorsement of 37 (Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labour and Meretz). Benny Gantz has assured Lapid of his backing if he can reach 61, while it is thought that Lapid will also have the backing of six members of the Joint List (possibly without the Balad representative). Presuming Gantz does back him, Lapid would still need Saar’s support to have 56.
  • Lapid could be prepared to go second in an alternating premiership arrangement if it meant forming a government without Netanyahu. However, a Yesh Atid source told Yediot Ahronot: “Bennett can’t be trusted to form a government with the pro-change bloc. He might take everyone’s endorsement and join forces with Netanyahu. Bennett doesn’t really want to replace Netanyahu.”
  • There are numerous permutations of potential creative coalitions, however they all require someone to break their ideological commitments.

  • Meanwhile, the current transitional government is paralysed due to the political deadlock. Gantz’s three-month temporary role as justice minister expires tomorrow. He is demanding the position full time and is refusing to convene the cabinet until that is agreed. On Monday the Cabinet was scheduled to vote on purchasing more coronavirus vaccines. Netanyahu criticised Gantz for blocking the purchase and that it could lead to a dangerous situation.

Looking ahead: On Monday President Rivlin will begin consultations with party leaders before deciding who will receive the 28-day mandate to form a coalition. According to speculation on Channel 12 News, due to the deadlock, it is possible Rivlin will also ask party leaders not only who they recommend being prime minister, but also their second preference. It is in this scenario that the Naftali Bennett could emerge as viable option.

  • On Monday April 5 the Prime Minister’s corruption trial reconvenes as the evidentiary stage begins.
  • On Tuesday April 6 the new Knesset will be sworn in. If the ‘bloc for change’ is able to coordinate itself, it could replace the speaker and initiate procedures to prevent Netanyahu from serving as prime minister.

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