Netanyahu given first crack at forming new Israeli govt by President Rivlin, despite corruption trial

Israel’s veteran leader has been asked to form a new government by the country’s president, having received the largest number of recommendations from party representatives holding seats in the fractured parliament on Monday.

On Tuesday afternoon, President Reuven Rivlin tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with assembling the next government coalition, despite the country’s long-time leader facing corruption charges. 

“I get the impression, based on consultations with representatives from the parties, that neither candidate has a good chance of being able to form a government,” President Reuven Rivlin told a press conference.

“According to the court and the law, a prime minister under indictment can continue to serve,” Rivlin commented, referring to Netanyahu, adding that “this was not an easy decision.” 

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On Monday, the president held talks with representatives from all 13 parties that won Knesset seats on March 23. Netanyahu, who leads the right-wing Likud party, was given 52 recommendations – the highest number – with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid taking the second largest number of endorsements. 

Netanyahu has 28 days to attempt to turn his recommendations into a coalition that could command a majority of 61 MKs in the 120-seat parliament, although a 14-day extension could be granted. Netanyahu’s Likud only won 30 seats itself in the election, but it has the support of other right-wing parties and religious camps. Should the veteran leader fail, Rivlin could task another candidate with the responsibility. 

Rivlin’s announcement has been met with disappointment from his rivals. “The president fulfilled his duty and didn’t have a choice, but mandating Netanyahu is a disgraceful mark of shame that stains Israel and makes a mockery of our status as a law-abiding country,” wrote Lapid on Twitter, referencing the ongoing trial against Netanyahu. 

The country’s leader of 12 years has been charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. He has denied all wrongdoing. 

Israel has been unable to form a stable government for years, with the country’s last coalition – a national unity government of Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White – lasting less than a year. The March election was the fourth such vote in two years.

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