Next Step: Rivlin to Decide Who Should Form Coalition – Or Not

President Reuven Rivlin casts his ballot at a voting station in Yerushalayim, during the Knesset elections, on Monday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

If all goes well, Israelis should have the final results of Monday’s Knesset elections by Wednesday night, after which the work of building a coalition begins. While all votes cast at polling stations have been counted, there are still two groups of voters whose voices have not yet been tallied. The largest of those groups are IDF soldiers who voted in the field.

This year, there is a second group of Israelis whose votes were not counted with the general public’s: those of the 4,000 or so voters who are under self-isolation due to coronavirus concerns. Counting of those votes was under the supervision of the Central Election Committee – by Magen David Adom health workers, who were outfitted in hazmat suits to ensure they were protected from traces of the virus that could be on the envelopes handled by patients.

Once the results are in and the election certified, the next step in formation of a government is for President Reuven Rivlin to decide whom to appoint to form a coalition. Here, too, special circumstances apply. Currently, the Likud is the largest party, with a projected 36 seats, which would make the leader of that party, Binyamin Netanyahu, the first choice of the president.

But a report on Kan News Tuesday night said that, given the fact that Netanyahu’s trials on corruption begin in less than two weeks, Rivlin may decide not to decide. According to election laws, the president can hand off his responsibility on this matter to the Knesset, which will decide on its own whom its members want as prime minister.

On the other hand, Rivlin realizes that if he does that, a fourth election is almost a certainty, since in a Knesset debate it’s likely that MKs of both the right and left blocs would dig in and stick to their positions, which on the left include no government with Netanyahu. On the other hand, Benny Gantz would not be able to garner 61 votes for himself, as the rightwing bloc of 58 or 59 MKs would vote against him – and either the United Arab List or Yisrael Beytenu would vote against if the other voted in favor.

Rivlin has two weeks to make that decision, but a decision must be made by March 17. The chosen candidate has two weeks to form a government, with an extension of two weeks possible. If that candidate is unable to form a government, Rivlin can ask another MK to do so. If that MK is unable to do so as well, a fourth election will be declared.