Gantz endorses Lapid to form new government in Israel

All appears forgiven as estranged former partners rally to try and unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin held the first meetings Monday with leaders of political parties to get their input before he decides who gets first crack at forming a new government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Yair Lapid being the leading candidates.

Rivlin is hosting delegations from all 13 parties that won seats in last month’s national elections, with representatives of the prime minister’s Likud Party being the first to visit his official residence in central Jerusalem to recommend Netanyahu for the task.

As Rivlin heard the Likud arguments in favor of Netanyahu, whose 30 seats give him the largest block in parliament, Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted his endorsement of centrist Yesh Atid leader Lapid, whose party won 17 seats. Lapid believes he can unite enough parties to overcome the deadlocked election result and unseat Netanyahu.

“I call on all members of the Change Bloc to recommend Knesset member Lapid today in order to prevent Netanyahu from accepting the mandate and to continue the discourse for the establishment of a healing government that the citizens of Israel so desperately need,” Gantz tweeted.

Gantz and Lapid formed the Blue and White party to try and defeat Netanyahu in the March 2020 elections, but they had a nasty divorce after Gantz chose to join Netanyahu’s government last year. Gantz and Lapid were barely speaking to each other until recently.

The meetings will be held throughout the day. Rivlin began by reminding the parties that he would pick the person he thinks has the best chance of forming a coalition of at least 61 members of the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

“With the end of the election campaign for the 24th Knesset, we are now beginning the round of consultations ahead of entrusting a Knesset Member with the task of forming a government,” Rivlin said at the start of the marathon day of meetings, adding that his authority was set in law.

“The aim of the process that the law sets out is to bring about the formation of a government that will have the confidence of the new Knesset that has been elected by the people,” Rivlin said. “The main consideration that will guide me is entrusting a Knesset Member with the task who has the best chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the new Knesset.”

“This round of consultations, just as the previous rounds since I took office, will be transparent and open to the public as a reflection of our commitment to be as visible as possible to Israeli citizens,” Rivlin emphasized.

The president is expected to announce his choice later this week. Right-wing Yemina Party leader Naftali Bennett is also working to gather support and could theoretically share power with Lapid, with the two taking turns in the prime minister’s chair.

Once Rivlin announces his choice, that person will have up to six weeks to negotiate with other parties to reach an agreement on a coalition government. Should they fail to gain a consensus, Rivlin can choose another person to try, but if the parties can’t come to an agreement, the country would go back to elections later this year, most likely in September.