PM Wants to Let Largest Party Form Government

Prime minister is expected to advance legislation that would take away the president’s role in the process.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Reuven Rivlin.
Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Reuven Rivlin.Credit: Amit Shabi
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to advance a bill under which the largest party to emerge after a general election would automatically form the government, bypassing the president, who under current law assigns the task to the party leader he feels has the best chance.

This would be seen as a significant blow to the institution of the presidency, even if the premier fails to achieve any other changes.

Netanyahu associates say that if the bill passes, it would cause significant political upheaval even before the next general election, as it would lead more parties to run as blocs in an effort to be able to form the next government.

“Netanyahu believes that running on a broad platform in the next election is the way to go,” said a source involved in the initiative. “I’m not sure it’s the right decision, but that’s Netanyahu’s approach. There’s a good chance that, ultimately, this will work against you. In recent years, Likud has been in power, so apparently the current system isn’t so bad after all.”

The source added, “We can start promoting the bill parallel to the presidential election. The fact that the next president will not choose who forms the government will encourage Netanyahu in the event that Ruby [MK Reuven] Rivlin is chosen president, but that’s not the reason for advancing the bill. Netanyahu has a lot of other personal reasons that he doesn’t want Rivlin in the president’s residence.”

The bill is expected to make it more likely that the center-right will win power, with parties like Yesh Atid, Shas and Meretz liable to lose voters to larger parties. Habayit Hayehudi and Yisrael Beiteinu are expected to benefit, even though their respective party heads, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, insisted Wednesday that they oppose the move.

According to associates of Netanyahu, Bennett could easily link up to a larger right-wing party and spin off the more conservative Tekuma element of his faction, without needing to worry about losing influence after the next election.

Lieberman, meanwhile, has already spoken of linking Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi for the next election.

“There’s no doubt that this bill is excellent for [Justice Minister] Tzipi Livni,” said a Netanyahu associate. “This way, [her party] Hatnuah will be more desirable goods in the framework of a merger with Labor or Yesh Atid before the election.”

Promoting the bill was originally aimed at solidifying the coalition, so the factions would agree to back Netanyahu on delaying the presidential balloting by six months. But since Finance Minister Yair Lapid declared he opposed such a delay, the election is expected to take place next month, as scheduled.

“The prime minister will return from Japan and plans, first of all, to sit with his coalition partners to see if he can breathe new life into the plan to delay the presidential election, but chances of that are small,” said a source close to Netanyahu. “After that, he will speak to [Energy and Water Resources Minister] Silvan Shalom and decide whether to support his candidacy for president. Those two decisions will make it clearer how the presidential election will proceed.”

Sources close to Netanyahu attacked Lapid on Wednesday for declaring he would not support delaying the presidential vote, claiming the Yesh Atid chairman had deceived them. “He even kept quiet in the media about it the whole week and was meant to meet with Netanyahu on the issue. There’s no doubt he wanted to send a message to the prime minister after the decision against making [Yesh Atid MK] Ofer Shelah the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.”

Asked by Army Radio why he had delayed speaking out on postponing the presidential vote, Lapid said, “We were thinking about it; you don’t hurry to be confrontational. But we decided that you can’t eliminate this institution at the last minute.”

“I’m not taking revenge on anyone, but I’m not hiding that I’m not pleased that Ofer Shelah is not chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,” added Lapid.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel


Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism