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Israel Election Results: Most Ultra-Orthodox Leaders Declare They Will Back Netanyahu for Prime Minister

Israel elections 2021: Rivlin says will start coalition talks next week ■ Gantz declares he wouldn't back Netanyahu for prime minister ■ Arab party set to present demands in coalition talks with Lapid

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Haaretz
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Ultra-Orthodox Shas leader Arye Dery in Jerusalem, last week.
Ultra-Orthodox Shas leader Arye Dery in Jerusalem, last week. Credit: Emil Salman
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Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud has emerged as the largest party with the all votes counted in Israel's unprecedented fourth election in two years.

However, Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition.

It ain't over yet for Bibi, and we may meet here again. LISTEN to Election Overdose podcast

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The anti-Netanyahu bloc, a patchwork of left, right and centrist factions, is also just shy of a majority. The Islamist United Arab List party, headed by Mansour Abbas, and Naftali Bennett's Yamina have not yet declared their support for either bloc.

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11:04 P.M. Some ultra-Orthodox leaders back Netanyahu, but parties face a dilemma

The Israeli election on Tuesday that ended in a stalemate, with any of the two major blocs shy of a majority, left ultra-Orthodox parties with a major dilemma moving ahead.

While Arye Dery’s Shas is continuing to stick with Benjamin Netanyahu, in United Torah Judaism the situation is more complicated. Agudat Yisrael, which represents the Hasidic wing of the party, said on Monday it would back Netanyahu either way, as Degel Hatorah, which represents the Lithuanian stream, is focusing on averting another election – even if it would mean endorsing a different candidate for prime minister.

“Serious talks are happening among the Haredim, (Gideon) Sa’ar, (Naftali) Bennett and (Bezalel) Smotrich,” says one knowledgeable source, referring to the leaders of the right-wing parties New Hope, Yamina and Religious Zionism. He adds that it is still hard to know how far the Haredi parties will be willing to go, and that the odds of a fifth election remain very high. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

>> Click here to read the full report

10:15 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox faction leader says will back Netanyahu for PM

Minister Yaakov Litzman, leader of the Agudat Yisrael faction of ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, said there was "no question" his party would recommend Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister. 

"We told the public before the election we'll go with Netanyahu," he said at a meeting with party activists, adding, "As far as I'm concerned, Agudat Yisrael at least only would recommend Benjamin Netanyahu to the president."

United Torah Judaism is expected to back Netanyahu for prime minister in next week's consultations with President Reuven Rivlin, but its leader, Moshe Gafni, hasn't yet declared wether the entire party would endorse Netanyahu's candidacy.

According to Litzman, "Our goal is to form a right-wing coalition for all Israeli citizens. All other rumors are just [political] spins." (Aaron Rabinowitz)

6:57 P.M. Anti-Netanyahu bloc struggles to agree on a candidate

The maneuvering over the weekend to form a new government shows the confusion prevailing in the bloc seeking to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The leaders of the bloc, Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar – and perhaps also Naftali Bennett, who has not committed himself to an anti-Netanyahu government – lack coordination and are separately positioning themselves to be tapped by President Reuven Rivlin to form the next government. (Jonathan Lis)

>> Click here to read the full report

6:10 P.M. Merav Michaeli: Labor won't join government without sexual assault prevention program

Labor leader Merav Michaeli tweeted that "the Labor party will not join any government without a sexual assault prevention program." She praised the  the police for it's activities in this regard.

"The time has come," she said, "for the government to give the police, the Attorney General's office, and the courts the necessary tools to address sexual assault." (Jonathan Lis

5:06 P.M. Explained: Why it’s proving so hard to form a coalition government

The bottom line of last week’s election is clear: For the fourth time in two years, Benjamin Netanyahu failed to secure the majority that would allow him to cancel his criminal indictment. His corruption trial is set to resume in Jerusalem District Court next Monday.

What is much less clear, however, is whether anyone – including Netanyahu – will be able to form a government this time, or if Israel will be headed to a fifth election this summer.

In order to form a government, at least one political party will have to retract a promise it made during the campaign. Overall, 13 parties will be represented in the 24th Knesset, and each of them made statements regarding the kind of coalition they would be willing to join. If all of them stay true to those pledges, mathematically, almost no coalition can be created. (Amir Tibon)

>> Click here to read the full report

4:17 P.M. Joint List to present demands to Lapid

The Joint List are planning to meet with Lapid this coming Wednesday or Thursday in order to present him with their demands for supporting the formation of a new government, according to Joint List sources.

Demands will include recognition of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, combatting violence in the Arab sector, the amendment to the Planning and Building Law – 1965, also known as the Kaminitz Law, increased funding for development, education and employment in the Arab sector, reviewing the Nation-State Law and the peace process with the Palestinians.

A clear agreement has not yet been reached over whether the party will recommend anyone to form a government, considering the implications of it's previous recommendation for Ganz to form a government.

The Balad faction favors not endorsing any candidate at all, but their power has diminished after their representation in the Knesset shrank from three to one seats. (Jack Khoury)

4:16 P.M. Gantz declares he wouldn't back Netanyahu for prime minister

Kahol Lavan head Benny Gantz said he would only endorse a candidate for prime minister that would replace Benjamin Netnyahu at the premiership.

In a Facebook post, Gantz called on the leaders of parties in the so-called pro-change bloc, namely Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, Yamina's Naftali Bennett and New Hope's Gideon Sa'ar, to meet as soon as possible to discuss forming a new government to get rid of Netanyahu.

"I am ready to do everything I can to form an honest government and avert a fifth election," Gantz said. "Until then I will work from within the government to ensure that Bibi does not advance even one milimeter in his efforts to violate the rule of law."

He stressed the urgency of the situation, arguing that there is much work to be done including passing a state budget, and returning Israel to political and economic stability.

"Netanyahu wants a fifth election that will keep him in the priemership for at least another six months, while he stands trial and prevents the appointment of an attorney general and justice minister," Gantz said. (Haaretz)

3:05 P.M. President Rivlin says will start coalition talks next Monday

President Reuven Rivlin announced on Monday that he would begin meeting with representatives of the parties elected to Knesset next week to decide who to task with forming a new government.

Rivlin, a statement said, invited the heads of parties to meet with him, starting Monday next week and is expected to decide on whom to tap to form the next government two days later.

After the official election results are released, the president has two weeks to task a lawmaker he believes has the best chance to form a government. That lawmaker would have 28 days to form a government. Should an extension be required, the president may approve an additional 14 days. (Jonathan Lis)

>> For the full report - click here

11:02 A.M. Ultra-Orthodox Shas leader Dery says he will back Netanyahu for prime minister

The leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Arye Dery said Monday that his party would recommend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be tapped to form the next government following the March 23 vote, as Shas had promised during the election campaign.

"Shas will work for the establishment of a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu that will protect the country's Jewish identity and work on behalf of weaker segments of society," Dery, who is the interior minister, said.

"Shas calls on all of the right-wing parties, particularly Yamina and New Hope, to rise above any other considerations and join a fully-right week government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu." (Aaron Rabinowitz)

>> For the full report click here

SUNDAY

9:19 P.M. Bennett, Sa'ar discuss positions ahead of coalition talks

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and New Hope party chief Gideon Sa'ar coordinated positions on Sunday ahead of expected coalition talks to form a new government. 

Sa'ar has refused to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in forming the next government, while Bennett has yet to make a decision.

Naftalit Bennett's right-wing Yamina still strives to form a coalition with Gideon Sa’ar's New Hope as well as the rest of so call Zionist parties. However, Yair Lapid's meeting with Mansour Abbas and Ayman Odeh, of the United Arab List and Joint List respectively, express Lapid's will to form a coalition with them, a move which Yamina's officials criticized harshly.

The fact Lapid held these talks during the holiday, which both Bennett and Sa’ar observe, did little to improve the Lapid-Yamina relationship.

While Yamina officials have said that "we are a right-wing party, we won't join a left-wing government," some actors within Yamina are not rejecting the option of enjoying the support of Mansour Abbas' United Arab List. "If Netanyahu can lean on their support, there's no reason we can't either," they said. (Haaretz)

8:34 P.M. Lapid, Gantz conclude meeting, set to meet again in coming days

The meeting between Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid and Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz concluded on Sunday, according to a laconic joint statement from both parties.

The statement said the two discussed ways to form a new government and replace Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, adding that they were expected to resume talks in the coming days.

Even after his meeting with Lapid, Gantz has still not said whether he intends to recommend him as prime minister. This, as well as the personal animosity between the two, allows Gantz to manoeuvre in the coming days between recommending the Yesh Atid leader or either Sa’ar or Bennett, provided the latter two agree on a joint axis within the anti-Netanyahu bloc. (Jonathan Lis)

6:14 P.M. Lapid, Gantz to discuss gov't formation after Passover

Defense Minister and Kahol Lavan party head Benny Gantz is set to meet his former colleague, Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid, after Passover on Sunday night.

The two will discuss how to form a government without Prime Mininister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier on Sunday, Lapid met with United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas.

Passover didn’t see any substantial developments that would make it possible for either bloc to form a coalition. The two kingmakers, Yamina party head Naftali Bennett and United Arab List chief Mansour Abbas, didn’t reveal who they would recommend as prime minister.  

Bennett, who is religious, celebrated Passover over the past two days, while Abbas continued to hold meetings, including with Yair Lapid, seeking to signal to the public and the political arena his central role in the formation of the next government. (Haaretz)

5:30 P.M. Lieberman says will recommend Lapid as PM candidate to President Rivlin

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday his party would recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid be tasked with forming a coalition government.

Lieberman didn't explicitly name Lapid in his Facebook post, but wrote that he would "back the chairman of a party from the opposition bloc that received the most Knesset seats as the candidate for Prime Minister."

Lapid's Yesh Atid, a member of the anti-Netanyahu bloc, secured 17 Knesset seats in Tuesday's election. "Anyone who attempts to sabotage this move and puts his ego above the national interest will bear the responsibility for a fifth election," Lieberman wrote. (Haaretz)

>> Read the full report here.

12:40 P.M. Lapid, Islamist party leader Abbas meet to discuss forming a government 

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and United Arab List head Mansour Abbas, who has been propelled into the center of Israeli politics as an unlikely kingmaker, met Sunday to discuss the possibility of forming a government.

The meeting took place at Lapid's home in Tel Aviv and he was the one who initiated the meeting, according to sources. A statemnet realsed by the United Arab List said Lapid and Abbas would meet again in coming days to discuss forming a government. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud has emerged as the largest party with all the votes counted in Israel's unprecedented fourth election in two years, but lacks an immediate majority to form a coalition. (Jonathan Lis)

>> Read the full report here.

SATURDAY

5 P.M. Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett calls on parties to ‘extricate Israel from the chaos’

In the wake of Israel’s election on Tuesday, Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett spoke on Friday afternoon with the heads of Israel’s leading political parties, save for the Joint List and United Arab List, with the aim of forming a government. 

Bennett urged the leaders of these parties to “extricate Israel from the chaos.” (Josh Breiner)

2:15 P.M. Attorney General pushes Netanyahu, Gantz to appoint Justice Minister

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Friday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the acting Justice Minister Benny Gantz to fill several key ministerial positions, amid the imminent expiration of temporary appointments. 

The attorney general emphasized the significance of the Justice Ministry in particular. "A situation in which the Justice Ministry is left without an incumbent minister will seriously harm the ministry's work and the functioning of the government," Mendelblit said. (Netael Bandel)

12:50 P.M. Lapid, Lieberman meet to discuss forming government

Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beiteinu’s chairmen, Yair Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman, met on Friday to discuss the possibility for forming a government. The two, who have 17 and seven seats respectively, and will meet again in the near future. 

This comes after Lieberman announced his intention to push for legislation banning someone currently charged with crimes from forming a government, therefore making it impossible for Netanyahu to run in another election. (Jonathan Lis)

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