Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may not be able to assemble a 61-MK majority for a new government, but he does have the votes to elect him as Israel’s next president.
At least, that is, according to a senior Likud source quoted The Jerusalem Post.
“I know for a fact that most of the MKs would vote for him, if he decides he wants to be president,” the source said. “It’s all in Netanyahu’s hands.”
The source added that there would also be sufficient support to change the vote for president in the Knesset from a secret ballot to an open one, which would likely favor Netanyahu.
The election must be held between April 9 and June 9, before President Reuven Rivlen’s seven-year term runs out on July 9.
Making Netanyahu president could be a way out of the political impasse that has gripped the country for over two years.
For once Netanyahu is no longer leader of the Likud, the issue which currently divides the Israeli right-wing—namely Binyamin Netanyahu—would no longer be an issue.
A snap primary could be held to choose a successor, and from there the road to a right-center coalition would be clear, as Likud, Shas, Blue and White, United Torah Judaism, Yamina, New Hope and the Religious Zionist party, would be able to form a stable coalition of 73 MKs, and without any help from the Islamist Ra’am party.
New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, who will not serve under Netanyahu, said last week that he would be willing to join a government led by a new Likud leader, such as Finance Minister Yisrael Katz or Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.
Presumably, Naftali Bennett, who has reportedly been talking with Yair Lapid about a power-sharing deal, would drop such ideas for a chance to be in a right-wing coalition without his nemesis, Netanyahu.
For Netanyahu it could be a way out of his legal woes, since the law that prevents a president from prosecution, at least for the seven years of his tenure.
But even if he would decide to run for president, and he has the votes in the Knesset to win, it might not be a way out of anything.
Besides the public outcry that would certainly ensue if Netanyahu is made president while being tried on criminal corruption charges, there would be a question as to whether he could even run for the office under such circumstances. The law that prevents a president from prosecution might not apply to a new president on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
The question would certainly end up in the High Court, where once again the fate of Binyamin Netanyahu and the state of Israel would be decided.