The Wheels of Democracy Turn Slowly

Today is the day the heads of the various parties elected to the new Knesset bring their recommendations for who should be asked to form a new coalition government to the Israeli President. The President, traditionally, then asks the individual with the most recommendations to try to form a government. This time around it’s more complicated. The party with the most seats is that of Binyamin Netanyahu. But much of the election campaign was centered on removing him from office. Add to that the fact that his first trial for criminal corruption begins the stage where testimony of witnesses is being presented on this same day. The president has publicly stated that he intends to ask the person he thinks had the best chance of forming a government that will have the support of a majority of the Knesset. Given that his main support, and that of his various opposition parties, are almost equal, will Netanyahu be asked? The answer seems to turn on the support of two smaller parties.One of them is an Arab party. One of Netanyahu’s other supporters, a right wing religious settlers party, unequivocally refuses to support any coalition that requires Arab support. The other is headed by Naftali Bennet, a former Netanyahu backer with ambitions to become prime minister himself. Early negotiations with other parties are reported to have include offers for sharing the job in return for Bennet NOT supporting Netanyahu.

Whatever happens, the person asked to try to form a government has as long as 4 weeks to negotiate agreements with other parties before the law requires him to surrender his appointment and give someone else a try. The President has a lot of leeway in choosing someone, but if no one is able to overcome opposition the country will be forced into yet another election. Looks like it will be a long spring and summer.

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