Israeli President Reuven Rivlin announced on Wednesday evening that he has asked Yesh Yatid chairman Yair Lapid to form a government.
Although Rivlin had until Friday to make the decision, the statement was issued just hours after consultations with party leaders in which Lapid received recommendations for the task from 56 MKs.
Explaining the decision, the president noted that while Naftali Bennett received only 7 recommendations, as he had last time, Lapid’s 56 was 11 more than he had last time. Lapid now has 28 days to put together an unlikely coalition of right-center-and left parties including New Hope, Yisrael Beytenu, Blue and White, Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz.
He quoted Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas as saying that although he did not make a recommendation, he was willing to “cooperate in a positive manner” with whomever was chosen to form a government.
Bennett told Rivlin that he was “not ruling out joining a coalition with Lapid in order to provide the country with a stable government.”
Lapid was quoted as saying that he would seek a deal with Bennett allowing the latter to go first in a rotation in the prime minister’s office.
The president also said that he rejected the proposal of the Likud-led right-religious bloc to send the mandate to the Knesset because that would “transgress the law and is likely to lead to fifth elections, without exhausting all the opportunities for forming a government.”
Likud claimed in a letter to Rivlin that if the mandate would be given to the Knesset a government could be formed quickly and additional elections could be avoided, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Sources in the Likud were blaming Bennett for Netanyahu’s inability to form a government.
Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar said that all was not lost. “To all those exulting over us returning the mandate, we are not worried, even if the path back could be long.”
He warned Bennett, Gideon Saar and Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich that they would pay a price for not reaching an agreement with Netanyahu.
“The people of Israel will not vote again for those who hung [Netanyahu],” Zohar wrote on Twitter.
Updated Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at 12:18 pm .