The New Zealand Herald
‘I fear for my country’: President forced to ask Netanyahu to form coalition
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said he “fears for his country” after being “obligated” to tap Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government, giving the incumbent Prime Minister a fresh attempt to salvage his political career amid a corruption trial.
Echoing the split general election results last month, no party leader won enough endorsements to gain a governing majority when Rivlin held consultations with parliamentarians. Netanyahu garnered the most support, with 52 endorsements, but fell short of the 61 seats needed for a majority.
Israel’s deeply divided politics has left it in a political stalemate that has marked the worst political crisis in the history of the Jewish state. It now has to prepare for the possibility of its fifth election since April 2019.
“The results of the consultations, which were open to all, lead me to believe that no candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset,” said Rivlin.
The March 23 election was seen as a referendum as to whether Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, should be able to continue in the job while facing three charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
“I know the position held by many, that the President should not give the role to a candidate that is facing criminal charges, but according to the law and the decision of the courts, a prime minister can continue in his role even when he is facing charges,” said Rivlin.
He added that neither the courts nor the Knesset had ruled out Netanyahu’s candidacy, and he did not think it was the job of the President to do so. The Prime Minister now has 28 days to achieve the nearimpossible task of cobbling together a governing coalition.
Rivlin said it was “not an easy decision on a moral and ethical basis”, adding: “I fear for my country. But I am doing what is required of me as President of the state of Israel.”