Israeli President Reuven Rivlin Taps Netanyahu to Form 35th Government

Netanyahu formally named next Israeli PM
AFP/Menahem KAHANA

TEL AVIV – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday officially appointed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the task of forming a new government for the 21st Knesset and added a plea that the Israeli premier do everything in his fifth term to bridge divides in the nation after an “us versus them” election campaign.

“In democracies, the majority decides. And in these elections, the majority spoke its part,” Rivlin said at a press briefing alongside Netanyahu.

“We’ve been through a difficult election campaign. A lot of things were said that shouldn’t have been said — from all sides — not in a Jewish state, and not in a democratic state,” Rivlin said.

“Us versus them is over, and now it’s just us,” Rivlin said. “Now is the time to stop fighting ‘them’ and to regain faith in ‘us.’”

Netanyahu pledged to represent all Israelis, “those that voted for me, and those that didn’t.”

According to Israel’s basic law, a candidate has 28 days to form a government once the president has entrusted him with the task of forming a government.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu secured recommendations from a majority of the 120 Knesset seats, cementing a right-wing coalition of 65 seats.

Even though Netanyahu’s Likud party tied with main challenger Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party with 35 seats apiece, the Israeli premier held the lead with enough right-wing partners to build a coalition.

The 65 seats are comprised of Likud’s final tally of 35, the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism at 8 apiece, the Union of Right-Wing Parties and Yisrael Beytenu at 5 each, and Kulanu at 4.

Avigdor Liberman, head of the secular right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, conditioned his recommendation on the passage of the draft law to enlist ultra-Orthodox men into the army.

“If we’re forced to choose between giving up on the draft law to remain in the coalition, or sitting in the opposition, we will go to new elections,” Liberman said.

The swearing-in ceremony should take place 14 days after election, but because of Passover and Easter, the Knesset speaker decided to delay it until April 30.

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