The President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, announced Tuesday that he is giving the mandate to the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to try to form the new government in the country, although he stressed that “no candidate has a realistic chance” of assembling an executive.
“I know the position of many that the president should not give the mandate to an impeached candidate,” said the president, before pointing out that “according to the laws and the decisions of the courts, a prime minister can continue in office even if he has been impeached”.
Rivlin argued that “the president of Israel is not a substitute for Parliament or the judicial apparatus.” “It is the task of the Knesset to decide on the ethical question of an impeached candidate’s ability to be prime minister,” he stressed, according to a transcript of his speech published by ‘The Times of Israel‘ newspaper.
In this regard, he stressed that 52 parliamentarians supported Netanyahu during the consultations, while 45 supported Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and seven supported Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, while 16 did not make any recommendation.
“Faced with this situation, without a majority of 61 parliamentarians supporting a particular candidate and without additional considerations indicating opportunities for the candidates to form a government, I have reached a decision based on the number of recommendations, which reveal that Netanyahu has a slightly better chance of forming a government,” he defended.
“It was not an easy decision on a moral or ethical level,” he stressed. “The State of Israel should not be taken for granted. I am afraid for my country, but I am doing what I am asked to do as president, according to the law and the rulings of the courts, to carry out the will of the sovereign people of Israel,” he said.
Rivlin has recalled that he was elected president in 2014 and lamented that since then “there have been five parliamentary elections, four of them in less than two years.” “I did not imagine it and I did not expect that, again and again, five times, I would have to face the difficult task of deciding who to give the mandate to form the government,” he has explained.
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“I would have liked the Presidency not to be so directly involved in the political system, but that is my role, and as part of it I take on this task. Basic Law: the Government obliges me, as President of the State of Israel, to hand over the mandate to form the Government to a member of the Knesset who agrees to do so,” he recalled.
Rivlin’s announcement had the peculiarity that, for the first time, Netanyahu was not invited to the President’s residence for the ceremony. Thus, Harel Tubi, head of Rivlin’s office, went to the Prime Minister’s residence to hand him the document with the appointment.
For his part, Lapid – whose party was the second most voted in the elections – has described the handing over of the mandate to ‘Bibi’ as “a disgrace” and “a stain on Israel”, although he acknowledged that the President had no other choice, given the situation resulting from the results and the lack of agreement in the opposition for a candidate who would add more seats.
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ROUND OF CONTACTS
Rivlin on Monday began contacts with the political parties with parliamentary representation to receive their recommendations following the March legislative elections, the fourth in nearly two years. The elections have once again left a divided Knesset without clear majorities.
Rivlin himself bet on March 31 on agreements to create “unconventional alliances” to form a government and avoid a fifth election in just over two years. “My main consideration will be the chances of forming a government that has the confidence of the Knesset, approves a budget and heals the nation,” he stressed.
The results of the elections reveal that Netanyahu’s Likud would win 30 seats, ahead of the 17 won by Yesh Atid and the nine won by the ultra-Orthodox Shas.
Behind are Blue and White, with eight seats, and Yamina, the Labor Party, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beitenu, with seven seats each. The Joint List, Religious Zionism, New Hope and Meretz add six seats, to the four of Raam, a breakaway from the Joint Arab List.
The situation leaves the pro-Netanyahu bloc with 52 seats, to the 57 of the opposition, while Yamina and Raam, which split from the Joint Arab List, figure as a hinge and could end up conceding the majority in case of agreement, which has triggered contacts to try to bring positions closer together.
THE TRIAL OF NETANYAHU
Rivlin’s announcement coincided with the second day of hearings in the evidence phase of the corruption trial against Netanyahu, in which one of the key witnesses reported receiving “unpleasant messages” after testifying on Monday.
Prosecutor Yehudir Tirosh revealed that Ilan Yeshua, former CEO of the Walla news portal, had received these messages. The judge, Rivka Friedman-Felmand, has responded that “when a witness says that he has received unpleasant messages, that could influence his behavior.”
Yeshua noted on Monday that he received orders to give greater weight to articles that helped the prime minister and to take it away from those opposed to Netanyahu or his wife, Sarah. Thus, he explained, his superiors asked him to publish “positive articles about the prime minister and his wife” and “negative articles about rivals of the prime minister, such as Naftali Bennett.”
Netanyahu, the first person in history to be indicted while serving as Israel’s prime minister, is accused of receiving bribes, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, following investigations led by the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit.
The most serious of these is case 4000, in which he faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for pushing through regulations that benefited Bezeq Group’s majority shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for favorable coverage of the Walla portal.
In the 1000 case, the prime minister will be charged with fraud and breach of trust for receiving illicit gifts valued at 700,000 shekels (about 183,000 euros) in exchange for favors.
On the other hand, in case 2000 he has been charged with fraud and breach of trust for agreeing with ‘Yedioth Ahronoth’ to weaken the competing newspaper ‘Israel Hayom’ – favorable to Netanyahu – in exchange for more favorable coverage of the prime minister in the first medium.
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