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.
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However, Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition.
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.
10:27 P.M. 'I renounced my ego, now it's your turn': Sa'ar urges Lapid to join forces to form government
New Hope Chairman Gideon Sa’ar – who broke away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party ahead of the March 23 vote – reached out to Yair Lapid, who currently heads the second biggest party in Knesset, and called on him to try and reach a majority to form a government.
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"On election night, a week ago, I said we would act, without ego, to form a government of change. Today it is my duty to say: the game of collecting recommendations won't lead to forming a government, but rather a practical and swift effort to reach a parliamentary majority. The window of opportunity is time-limited," Sa'ar tweeted, tagging Lapid.
"I renounced my ego, now it's your turn," he added.
Lapid, on his part, tweeted that he would weigh all options but urged all parties to back him as canditate for prime minister.
"As I said during the campaign and as I'm saying now – Israel is more important than my personal ambitious, or anybody else's. The purpose of the 'bloc for change' in the coming week is to prevent the danger that the president task Netanyahu with forming the government. To keep that from happening, all the parties that are part of the bloc for change must recommend Yesh Atid, the largest party in the bloc, to the president. (Haaretz)
4:14 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox faction says will do everything to avoid another election
The Degel Hatorah faction, which represents the Lithuanian stream of United Torah Judaism, said it is investing great efforts to avoid a fifth election in two years, adding it would be "a disaster for the economy and for Israel."
Degel Hatorah said in a statement that another election would "cause an outrageous instability" to the country. We are doing everything possible to form a coalition with the right-wing bloc."
The statement added that the party would discuss the issue with its prominent rabbis and follow their orders. (Aaron Rabinowitz)
1:56 P.M. Yair Lapid shouldn't count on automatic Joint List support, Ayman Odeh says
Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, has said on an interview to a local radio station on Tuesday that Yair Lapid should not expect the Joint List to automatically back Lapid to form and lead the next government.
"Only after Lapid will prove he has a tally of 55 backers (out of 61 needed for Knesset majority) and the Joint List will lay out its demands, we'll make our decision," Oden said. (Jack Khoury)
1:33 P.M. Gantz calls on UAL's Mansour Abbas to support anti-Netanyahu bloc
Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz met on Tuesday with Mansour Abbas, head of the United Arab List, and asked him to align with the anti-Netanyahu bloc, said a statement from Gantz.
Last week, Abbas, who has become a potential kingmaker, says any deal will depend on solving problems facing Arab society. He further emphasized that the UAL is "not obligated to any bloc or any candidate."
Gantz and Abbas have agreed to continue negotiation in the coming days. (Haaretz)
11:06 A.M. Gantz throws tacit support behind Lapid
Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz said on Tuesday he would recommend that Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid gets tasked first with forming a government.
"I will recommend him if I see it serves the purpose of replacing Netanyahu," Gantz said in an interview to Ynet.
However, when asked if Lapid could lead the next government, Gantz said he thought both Lapid and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett are suitable for the role. When pressed if he would recommend Lapid to President Reuven Rivlin, Gantz said: "I want to see how we can reach 53 seats and then all that's missing is my eight." (Haaretz)
10:51 A.M. Religious Zionism chief Smotrich to reccomend Netanyahu
Bezalel Smotrich, head of the right-wing Religious Zionism party, has announced Tuesday that he will recommend Benjamin Netanyahu be tasked with forming a governing coalition.
"After two difficult years, Israel needs a stable and homogenous right-wing government," he tweeted.
He called on the right-wing party heads to "put aside any past grudges" and start cooperating for Israel's benefit. (Haaretz)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)