Israeli President Reuven Rivlin began two days of crucial talks Sunday with party leaders before selecting his candidate for prime minister, after a deadlocked repeat election was set to make forming any new government a daunting task.
Israel’s largely ceremonial president is tasked with picking the politician with the best chance of forming a stable coalition government. While usually a mere formality, this time Rivlin plays a key role after an election result in which neither of the top candidates has an outright majority.
In last week’s vote, Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party won 33 seats in the 120-member parliament, while incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud took 31 seats. Neither can muster a parliamentary majority with their traditional smaller allies.
The deciding factor looks to be Avigdor Lieberman and the eight seats his Yisrael Beitenu party captured.
The first step out of the quagmire is the consultations at the president’s residence, where each of the parties is asked to make its recommendations.
Rivlin’s eventual candidate will have up to six weeks to form a coalition. If that fails, Rivlin could give another candidate for prime minister 28 days to form a coalition.
And if that doesn’t work, new elections would be triggered yet again. Rivlin has said he will do everything possible to avoid such a scenario and no one appears interested in a third Israeli election within a year.