President Rivlin Pleads for Political Unity

Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, today formally nominated Benjamin Netanyahu as the politician with task of forming Israel’s next government – he now has 28 days to do so.

Netanyahu received 52 recommendations from other politicians, compared to the 45 received by Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s second largest party, Yesh Atid.

Consequently, Rivlin said Netanyahu had a “slightly better chance” of forming a coalition. But the president emphasised that the decision was not easy for him on moral grounds, because of the court cases in progress against Israel’s caretaker prime minister.

Announcing his decision, he said he was nominating Prime Minister Netanyahu even though he did not believe any candidate “has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset.”

To obtain a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu will require the backing of right-wing, nationalist party Yamina, led by political rival Naftali Bennett, as well as the Arab party Raam. Neither of these have committed to supporting him.

Against this background, President Rivlin later used his speech at the opening session of the 24th Knesset to implore Israel’s politicians to display leadership, bridge their divisions and give Israel a stable government after more than two years of political turmoil.

Six years ago, when he became president, Rivlin warned that Israel was becoming increasingly fragmented into four “tribes”: secular Jews, religious Jews, the ultra-Orthodox, and Arabs. And he says those divides were painfully exposed during the coronavirus pandemic. He continued:

“If we are not able to find a new model of partnership that allows us
to live together here in mutual respect and genuine shared commitment
to each other, our national resilience will be in real jeopardy.”

However, the prospects are dim, with some analysts saying there are four significant factors that may prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from succeeding:

1. Recent political disruption of the hitherto successful vaccination programme.

2. The United States joining talks to revive the nuclear deal with Iran.

3. Jordan’s recent crisis within its monarchy.

4. Netanyahu’s court cases in which he is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.