With the Likud comfortably ahead in the vote count and set to be declared the largest party in the Knesset when all the votes are counted, Israeli electoral law gives the leader of the party – in this case Binyamin Netanyahu – the first opportunity to form a government.
But getting the largest number of votes isn’t the only obstacle Netanyahu is likely to face on his way to another term as prime minister; because of the indictments against him, he may face opposition from legal authorities, from State Prosecutor Avichai Mandelblit to the High Court.
Almost immediately after the final results are certified, which is not likely to be before Wednesday night – but perhaps even before – petitions from leftist groups to the court demanding that Netanyahu be barred from coalition negotiations are likely to appear.
That would be a big mistake, Likud whip Miki Zohar said in interviews Tuesday morning. Speaking to Yediot Acharonot, Zohar said “woe to the court that would attempt to interfere with the will of the people. In a democracy it is the people who decide, and it is they whose representatives can change the law.”
When the question was presented to the court before the election, it said that it preferred not to render an opinion, and would only do so if necessary – which is the case now. Mandelblit said that there was no apparent legal reason for an individual under indictment not to try and form a government, but he did not render an official legal opinion.
Speaking to Galey Yisrael radio, Zohar said he did not believe President Reuven Rivlin would deny Netanyahu the opportunity to form a government. “The law is quite clear, Netanyahu is the prospective prime minister. The High Court should reject all petitions challenging the results of the elections, and I don’t believe they are going to want to get involved in those challenges. The people have spoken, and that is the end of it.” If Netanyahu is prevented from forming a government, “there will be fourth elections, and we will get a lot more votes next time around,” he added.