Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday formally tasked Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a government, after securing the backing of 72 out of 120 Knesset members, including all members of Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party, paving the way for the formation of a permanent government after about a year of political deadlock.
Having been given the mandate to form a government, Netanyahu now has 14 days to do so. If he fails, the Knesset will be dissolved and Israel will go to a fourth back-to-back election cycle.
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Rivlin said in a statement after receiving the signed endorsements: "We are in an unprecedented time, during which the state underwent three election cycles in a row, and in the past several months, Israel, together with the entire world, had to face the coronavirus (outbreak)." He added he hopes a government would indeed be formed now "to successfully handle the complex crises we face."
Kahol Lavan requested Likud and the President's Office not to release their actual signatures on the request to nominate Netanyahu, but only a document with the names of the signatories. However, Haaretz obtained a copy of the document signed by Gantz.
Earlier on Thursday, the Knesset approved amendments to two basic laws which allow Netanyahu's Likud and Gantz's Kahol Lavan to fulfill their coalition agreement and enshrine in law the rotation between the two men as prime minister.
This follows the High Court of Justice ruling which struck down petitions against the coalition agreement, as well as petitions to bar a lawmaker with criminal charges from forming a government.
The amendments were approved by a majority of 72 to 36. The right-wing Yamina party, lawmakers from Yisrael Beiteinu, including Avigdor Lieberman and Merav Michaeli from the Labor party abstained.
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Yamina, headed by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, also did not recommend Netanyahu for prime minister. Netanyahu and Bennett spoke later on Thursday, but Bennett said in a statement they reached no agreement on Yamina possibly joining the government.
On Wednesday, Likud and Kahol Lavan released a joint statement saying the two parties agreed on the formation of a government and its swearing-in next Wednesday, on May 13.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz are took part in Thursday's vote, which initially had 1,000 reservations by opposing lawmakers. They have since withdrawn all of them.
A special Knesset panel convened early Thursday for a two-hour debate to vote on the Likud- and Kahol Lavan-backed bill amending the Basic Law on the Government, which will extend the new government’s term to four years, meaning its term will end in 2024 instead of 2023.
The initial agreement between Kahol Lavan and Likud was to shorten the term of the 23rd Knesset by a year and five months, so that Netanyahu could serve as prime minister for 18 months, as would have Gantz once Netanyahu had concluded his term. According to the coalition deal, a bill to extend Netanyahu’s term could be brought for a Knesset vote if it has the support of at least 75 lawmakers.