Israel’s Government: What Happens Now?

YERUSHALAYIM -
The plenum hall of the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

With the expiration of the mandate given to Benny Gantz to form a government, and after Binyamin Netanyahu previously failed to form one, Israel’s election saga enters its third stage – a 21-day period in which any MK can nominate any other member (or him or herself) for the office of prime minister. Any MK who can garner 61 Knesset votes or themselves can take office.

President Reuven Rivlin is expected to officially announce Thursday afternoon that Gantz had failed to form a government, and that the field was now open to all. If that announcement is made Thursday, the Knesset will have until December 12 at midnight to choose a leader. If one is found, that person will have 14 days to present a government. MKs need to present their choice in writing to Rivlin (according to legal experts, they can make more than one choice). And if that doesn’t happen? The Knesset is automatically dispersed, and new elections are scheduled within 90 days.

Meanwhile, the caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will continue to function. That will remain the case even if Netanyahu is indicted in one of the four corruption cases he is under investigation for; a prime minister is required to resign only if they are convicted on such charges. Reports Wednesday said that State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit is likely to issue those recommendations in the coming days, possibly before the weekend.

New elections became almost a certainty Wednesday as Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman announced that his party would not join a rightwing coalition led by the Likud, and neither would it support a minority government supported from outside a coalition that Blue and White would organize. Both Netanyahu and Gantz had been hoping that Liberman would opt for either a rightwing government led by Netanyahu, or support a minority government headed by Gantz that would rely on support of the United Arab List from outside the coalition.

Consistent with his position all along, Liberman at a press conference Wednesday insisted on a unity government, consisting of his party, the Likud and Blue and White. “Any other kind of government will have difficulty functioning,” he said. “It will turn into a contest for survival on a weekly basis.”