It's official: Netanyahu receives mandate to form a coalition – despite being on trial, president says
President Herzog on Friday announced his final decision; Netanyahu to serve sixth term as prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu officially received the mandate to form a coalition because he has the "greatest chance of forming the next government."
"The result was clear, and the task of forming a government must be assigned to Benjamin Netanyahu," Israeli President Isaac Herzog said during an official ceremony on Sunday at the President's Residence.
The numbers were in Netanyahu's favor. With 64 of 120 Knesset members recommending he get the first shot to form a government. Netanyahu should have an easy time building a stable coalition that will end the loop of elections Israel has had over the last three and a half years.
But Herzog touched on other considerations he had to take into account before giving Netanyahu the mandate, including corruption charges for the soon-to-be Israeli prime minister who is currently on trial.
"I am not oblivious, of course, to the fact that there are ongoing legal proceedings against Mr. Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, and I do not trivialize this at all," Herzog said. "Nevertheless, it is important to note that the Supreme Court has already expressed itself clearly on the matter of pending indictments against a member of Knesset nominated for the role of forming a government, in a number of rulings, including with an expanded panel of 11 justices, when the task of forming a government was assigned to Mr. Netanyahu by my predecessor, President Reuven Rivlin."
However, fellow Likud members lashed out at the mention of this, saying the ceremony was not the place to bring it up.
"It was not the Supreme Court's statement that led to the imposition of the mandate on Netanyahu, but the people's statement. The people have spoken. Get used to it," Knesset Member Shlomo Karhi wrote on Twitter.
Netanyahu laid out a clear mandate for his government, including a proactive approach to stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and a plan for expanding the Abraham Accords.
"Voters gave their clear support for me, my Likud movement, and to the partners who share our path. But I want to say: I intend to be the prime minister of everyone – those who voted for me and those who did not vote for me. That is my responsibility as the prime minister of Israel,” he said striking a conciliatory tone after divisive elections.
In addressing Netanyahu directly, Herzog urged him "to lead a government and a coalition that will be conscious of the immense responsibility assigned to them, and to the fact that elections in Israel are not a zero-sum game."
Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a new government, with the possibility of a 14-day extension.
He may not need that much time, however. Negotiations on ministerial positions have been taking place since the day after the Nov. 1 elections. The Religious Zionism, Shas and United Torah Judaism parties are expected to round out the coalition along with Likud.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.