Midnight deadline looms for Netanyahu to present coalition government to President Rivlin

Netanyahu and President RivlinNetanyahu and President Rivlin

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to present his 61-member coalition to President Reuven Rivlin later Wednesday, ahead of a midnight deadline to present his government.

By law, if Netanyahu does not form a government by midnight on Wednesday, Przesident Rivlin will be required to call upon another Member of the Knesset to form a government or initiate a general election.

He could ask Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog or an MK in the Likud to attempt to form a government in the event of a Netanyahu failure.

The Prime Minister has coalition deals with Kulanu, United Torah Judaism and Shas, which together with the Likud’s 30 lawmakers, make up 53 MKs in the 120-member Knesset, Israel’s parliament.  He only needs the eight MKs of Bayit Yehudi to reach the required majority of 61 required to form a coalition.

Talks with Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) of Naftali Bennett  continued late into the hours of Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, the Likud agreed to a Bayit Yehudi demand to give the Justice Ministry to Member of the Knesset Ayelet Shaked, according to Channel 2.

However, in making the offer Likud also attempted to clip Shaked’s wings, insisting that she not be able to appoint religious court judges and that she also not chair the Israeli Judicial Committee, the body that appoints judges for the law courts, Israeli news sites reported.


Instead, a Likud minister would head the religious court judges appointment panel, with Shaked, who is nonreligious, and a representative from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party also having their say. The religious courts handle, among other things, matters of marriage and divorce.

Jewish Home indicated, though, that without Shaked retaining leadership of the judicial committee for the law courts, the party will not sign a coalition deal.

Netanyahu has been scrambling to bring Jewish Home and its eight seats aboard before the midnight deadline.

However, the nationalist party upped its demands over the past days, insisting that Shaked be given the Justice Ministry and party leader Naftali Bennett be given a top portfolio — possibly the Foreign Ministry.

 

Israel Radio quoted a Likud source saying that Netanyahu had made an “unprecedented” offer to Bennett, promising the education, sports, agriculture and Diaspora affairs ministries, plus chairmanship of an influential Knesset committee.  A Likud statement warned that “if Jewish Home rejects this offer, there’s only one alternative to a national Likud government: A left-wing government headed by Herzog, in which there will be no representation for the religious-Zionists,” which form the base of Jewish Home’s support.

If he succeeds in signing Jewish Home up for his coalition, Netanyahu will have the pieces in place for a razor-thin 61-seat majority, enough to maintain power but not enough to do much else, analysts say.

On Monday, Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Liberman announced his resignation as Foreign Minister and said his party would refuse to join the coalition.