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Netanyahu begins effort to form right-wing gov’t after Rivlin taps him

CM 06/04/2021 1

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will begin meeting with right-wing allies in his bloc on Wednesday and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett on Thursday in an effort to form what he called a “strong and homogeneous government.” President Reuven Rivlin reluctantly gave him the mandate to build a coalition on Tuesday.
Netanyahu’s strategy will be to pressure both Bennett and Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich to join the coalition even if it is backed by Ra’am (United Arab List), headed by MK Mansour Abbas. One possibility is to have Yamina join while both Smotrich’s and Abbas’s parties back the coalition from outside.
In a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu told MKs that building a coalition would “not be an easy job, but is not impossible.”
“The goal is within reach, and I believe we can get there,” he said.
Netanyahu vowed to stop the political paralysis. He said he would be “the prime minister of everyone,” and in a reference to New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, he called for an end to political boycotts.
Bennett told his faction he would negotiate with Netanyahu. But he also hinted he would continue coalition talks for a government led by himself and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, saying he would do all he can to prevent a fifth election.
“During the campaign I refused to lie even though it would help me, and I still refuse to lie,” Bennett said. “Israel needs a stable, right-wing government that will end chaos and hate and reflect the national consensus. That is the will of the nation.”

In a sign of tension within the self-declared “change camp,” Bennett said he would not give into pressure to relinquish his right-wing values. MKs in Yesh Atid, Labor and Meretz complained that Bennett was asking for too much in the talks that have begun.
Blasting Smotrich, Bennett said there are those who would drag Israel to a fifth election. He compared him to those who destroyed the storehouses of the Jewish people during the Roman siege of Judea 2,000 years ago.
“Those preparing for another election are behaving childishly,” Bennett said. “For the sake of God, we have a state. Stop your campaigning. Stop climbing trees and going to extremes, and think about how to end this impasse.”
Smotrich accused Bennett of breaking up the right-wing camp. In response, Bennett called him “a snake in saint’s clothing.”
Earlier, Rivlin signed a letter of appointment, giving Netanyahu 28 days to form a government. He did not invite Netanyahu to his office to receive the mandate.
A traditional meeting of president, prime minister, Knesset speaker and Supreme Court president was boycotted by Rivlin, apparently to avoid being seen with Netanyahu.
In his speech, Rivlin lamented that he could not have imagined when he was elected seven years ago that he would appoint a candidate to form a government five times during his term. He said his main consideration must be who can best form a government that would receive the trust of the Knesset and that no candidate can currently obtain a majority of the Knesset.
It is problematic to appoint a candidate with a criminal indictment and on trial, but the Supreme Court has ruled it permissible, so he decided to stay out of that debate, Rivlin said.
“The president cannot replace the legislators,” he said. “The decision to prevent a candidate under indictment from forming a government is the Knesset’s decision.”
He decided not to take Netanyahu’s ongoing trial into consideration out of a desire to protect the office of the president, which “receives the trust of the public,” Rivlin said.
In response, Lapid said he understood the president’s decision and could not object.
“The president had no choice,” Lapid said. “But giving the mandate to Netanyahu is shameful and stains Israel as a law-abiding state.”
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG) watchdog group criticized Rivlin’s decision.
“Given the constraints of the dry law to which he is subject and which he expanded on in his statement, it would have been better for him to resign and not make an unprecedented move of allowing a criminal defendant to form a government,” the movement said.
The High Court of Justice had ruled that Netanyahu could only serve as prime minister if he reached a conflict-of-interest settlement, something that has not yet been done, MQG said.
“An accused criminal who is on trial is in a daily conflict of interest and is in no way qualified to serve as prime minister,” it said.
Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.•

Source: Jerusalem Post

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