It’s official: Netanyahu has his Knesset majority

The endorsement of all of the Likud’s natural partners makes it inevitable that Netanyahu will be tasked with forming the next government.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s right-wing and religious parties have declared to President Reuven Rivlin that they support another term for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, giving him an absolute majority of 65 seats in the next Knesset.

Although the official, final vote count will be announced only on Wednesday, allowing for the possibility that a seat may slip from one party to another, the tally should not change the right-wing bloc’s number as a whole. As of now, this comes from a combination of the Likud (35), Shas and United Torah Judaism (8 each), Yisrael Beitenu and the Union of Right-Wing Parties (5 apiece), and Kulanu (4).

Only 45 MKs recommended to the president that Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party be asked to form the government. Even if the two Arab parties had joined their call instead of refusing to recommend anyone, their combined 10 seats would not have been enough for the center-left to head the government.

When the president asks Prime Minister Netanyahu to form the next government, he will have 28 days to put together a coalition of at least 61 seats. He can also request a 14-day extension if negotiations become difficult, with small parties making contradictory demands in return for their support.

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One major issue is the Draft Law, which is meant to encourage the ultra-Orthodox sector to serve in the army. Mr. Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beitenu party has said that he will insist on the version agreed upon by the Defense Ministry during his tenure at its head, while the haredi parties are adamantly opposed to it.

If Prime Minister Netanyahu succeeds, he will break the late David Ben-Gurion’s record of total time served as prime minister and, within 972 more days in office, become known as Israel’s longest-serving head of government. Israel’s first prime minister served two terms in office, totalling 4,872 days – 13 years, four months and a few days. The incumbent Israeli leader served one term from 1996-1999, and then three consecutive terms starting in 2009.