JERUSALEM - Almost a week after Israel’s deadlocked election, Israelis are no closer to knowing who their prime minister will be. President Reuven Rivlin has just finished two days of consultations with all of the party heads, and will ask either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or challenger Benny Gantz to try to form a coalition.
After Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, and Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White, the third largest political bloc in Israel is the Arab Joint List. In the past, they have not recommended any candidate for prime minister, mostly as a protest. But this time, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said 10 out of 13 members of the bloc recommended Gantz as prime minister
He said the most important thing was to get rid of Netanyahu.
It looks like neither Netanyahu nor Gantz has enough votes to form a majority coalition of 61 in the 120 seat Knesset. After two days of consultations, Netanyahu continued his attacks on Israel’s Arab citizens.
He said that either there will be a minority government based on those who praise attacks on Israelis, or there will be a broad unity government.
A unity government would mean a deal between Netanyahu and Gantz, who together would have a majority, even without any of the smaller parties.
President Rivlin, who has to task either Netanyahu or Gantz with forming a government, has made it clear that is the outcome he prefers. But Netanyahu is facing a series of corruption allegations and is likely to be indicted in the next few weeks. Gantz has said he will not join a government that includes Netanyahu.
The potential decision maker is Avigdor Lieberman, the head of a mostly Russian immigrant party with eight seats. He too supports a unity government.
If neither Netanyahu nor Gantz can form a government in the next month or so, the country could go to a third round of elections. That is something that most Israelis do not want, especially as it seems unlikely there will be a major change I the outcome.
That means that the next few weeks will see a lot of political horse trading and maybe, eventually, a new government.