Israeli President Shimon Peres will summon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to his residence at 8:00 p.m. on Motzoei Shabbos to task him with forming Israel’s 33rd government.
The United Torah Judaism list recommended yesterday while meeting with the president that Netanyahu be appointed to form the government, requesting that it be done on Motzoei Shabbos.
Deputy Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, chairman of the Finance Committee Rabbi Moshe Gafni, and Rabbi Meir Porush expressed their concern that if Peres would summon Netanyahu on Thursday evening or today, Friday, the coalition negotiations would actually begin on Shabbos. They requested that the president refrain from facilitating this Shabbos desecration, and Peres acquiesced.
At the end of the two-day series of consultations between the president and the Knesset factions elected to the 19th Knesset, 80 MKs expressed their support for Netanyahu as the candidate to form the government. The factions that did so are Likud, Yesh Atid, Jewish Home, Shas, UTJ and Kadima.
At their meeting with President Peres, the chareidi representatives warned of a rift that would split the nation in the event that Yair Lapid’s demand to draft yeshivah bachurim into the IDF is implemented. A Shas delegation, which included Rabbi Aryeh Deri, Rabbi Eli Yishai and Rabbi Ariel Attias, delivered a letter from Harav Ovadia Yosef, shlita, to the president, in which he warns of a civil war if the Torah world is harmed.
“Certainly, serious discussions must be held to find suitable solutions for those who do not learn Torah. However, a civil war that will tear the Jewish nation apart in Eretz Yisrael must not be allowed to happen,” Harav Yosef wrote.
Sources in the president’s office said in response to the letter that Peres may undertake to mediate between the sides on the issue of sharing the burden. Peres is considering this because of the “heavy pressure” that various factions are exerting on him.
It should be noted that both Shas and UTJ have asked Peres to intervene and mediate to prevent the forcible draft of yeshivah bachurim. The representatives of both factions reminded Peres of his historic role in implementing the Toraso Umnaso agreement in the days of Ben Gurion. “Anyone who wants to learn Torah should be allowed to do so,” Rabbi Litzman stressed to the president.
At the beginning of the meeting with the Shas delegation, Rabbi Deri handed Harav Ovadia Yosef’s letter to the president.
“In this letter he expresses his concern about a rift in the nation, chalilah, and his hope that you, the president, are the only one who can find a solution and common ground. It’s not a coalition matter but rather, an issue that is liable to tear the nation apart,” Rabbi Deri said.
“We declared throughout the election cycle that we would recommend Netanyahu form the government, and we are fulfilling that pledge. Although we have concerns [about his plans], we have no formal information and we hope that as broad a government as possible is formed.”
“One of the issues that worries me the most is the effort to bring about a rift in the nation by certain people who are promoting an effort to uproot the Torah world,” Rabbi Yishai added. “Any effort to shut down the Torah world and to harm the emunah of Am Yisrael will bring about rifts.
“I am very worried. I feel that this is a very dangerous process — and the point is that no one will succeed in harming the Torah scholars.”
The Labor delegation, headed by MK Shelly Yachimovitch, did not recommend anyone to be appointed to form the government and said that they rely on the president’s judgment.
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett told the president that, as he had said throughout the campaign, he was recommending that Netanyahu form the government. He also utilized the meeting with the president to ask that he keep working to free Jonathan Pollard.
Meretz and Hatenuah, led by Tzipi Livni, met with the president but did not make any recommendations regarding the next prime minister.
The factions were received by the president in order of the size of their representation.
According to the law, when a new government must be formed, the president consults with the representatives of the Knesset factions and charges one of the MKs with this task. The president must do this within seven days of the official publication of the election outcome.
Technically speaking, while the president does not have to appoint Netanyahu to form the government, according to precedent the president must take into consideration the recommendations of the various factions. As a practical matter, the president does not really have a choice.
Peres will invite Binyamin Netanyahu on Motzoei Shabbos and appoint him to form the government. Once this formality is over, the official coalition negotiations will begin.
The appointed MK has 28 days to form the government, and he can request a 14-day extension from the president. If within that time period he does not succeed, the president can appoint another MK, or inform the Knesset speaker that he does not see the possibility of forming a new government. In such a case, new elections are held.