In Israel, Netanyahu appointed to form next government

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Outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, indicted for corruption, was appointed Tuesday to form the next Israeli government despite his inability to muster enough support in parliament amid deep political divisions.

Two weeks after legislative elections that looked like a referendum for or against the most lasting prime minister in Israel's history, the latter was appointed by President Reuven Rivlin to set up a new ministerial team.

I made my decision on the basis of the recommendations (of the parties), which indicate that the deputy Benyamin Netanyahu has a greater possibility of forming a government (…) This is why I decided to entrust him with forming a government.

A quote from:Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel

It's not an easy decision for me, both morally and ethically, added this former member of Likud, the right-wing party of Mr. Netanyahu, the day after the resumption of the trial of the prime minister indicted for corruption in three cases.

Usually, the president appoints the candidate who has received the support of 61 deputies, but no candidate has a real possibility to reach that threshold, Mr. Rivlin said.

Mr. Netanyahu, with his allies from the ultra-Orthodox parties and the far-right party Religious Zionism, obtained the support of 52 parliamentarians on Monday.

In front of him, the centrist Yaïr Lapid was recommended by 45 deputies, determined to oust Mr. Netanyahu from power because of his legal troubles in particular.

First head of government in Israel's history to face criminal charges while in office, Netanyahu is accused of corruption, fraud and breach of trust in three cases, charges he strongly denies .

Reuven Rivlin.

Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel.

Photo: Getty Images / AMIR COHEN

I know the position that many share, that the president should not give this task to a candidate who faces criminal charges, but depending on the law and the court ruling, a prime minister can continue to play his role even when 'he faces charges.

A quote from:Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel

Coincidentally, discussions between the parties and President Rivlin took place on the day Mr. Netanyahu's trial resumed, during which he was accused by the senior prosecutor of having illegitimately used the great governmental power conferred on him.

The person concerned reacted by asserting that it was the prosecutor's office that had illegitimately used the power conferred on him, using the exact words of the prosecutor.

For the time being, Mr. Netanyahu's trial does not threaten his ambitions since he would only have to resign in the event of a final conviction, and the exhaustion of all remedies could take years.

The task of Mr. Netanyahu promises to be complex as the country is divided: the political landscape is fragmented with 13 parties sharing the 120 seats in Parliament.

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Mr. Netanyahu, 71, could reach out to his former colt Naftali Bennett, who has become a leader of the radical right.

The latter did not recommend Mr. Netanyahu or Mr. Lapid and did not speak about his intentions, but announced the holding of a press conference Tuesday afternoon before the swearing-in of the new deputies.

Mr. Lapid had proposed Monday to Mr. Bennett to form a unity government based on a rotation: he would be prime minister first, before Mr. Lapid, but he has not yet responded to this outstretched hand.

There is also Mansour Abbas, whose Islamist party Raam surprised the elections by winning four seats. He did not recommend any candidates to the president on Monday and said he would negotiate with the nominee.

Problem: the far-right formation Religious Zionism allied with Mr. Netanyahu categorically refuses to be part of an alliance with the Islamists of Raam.

Usually, the nominee has 28 days to form a government, which can be extended by 14 days. If neither side manages to form a coalition, new elections could be called, prolonging the crisis in Israel.

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