Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will receive an official mandate on Sunday to form a new government, Israel’s presidency said, following the completion of consultations with lawmakers.
Polls on November 1 gave Netanyahu and his far-right allies a clear majority in parliament, sealing the veteran leader’s return to power after a period of unprecedented political gridlock that forced five elections in less than four years.
Sixty-four representatives from Israel’s 120-seat legislature recommended that President Isaac Herzog appoint Netanyahu, a statement said Friday.
The former premier has been summoned “to accept the task of forming the government from the president on Sunday”, it added.
Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a cabinet, with a 14-day extension available if required.
His right-wing Likud party and its allies — two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and the extreme-right Religious Zionism bloc — won 64 seats in the Knesset, giving Netanyahu the majority to form a stable governing coalition, which may also be the most right-wing in Israeli history.
Netanyahu led Israel from 1996 to 1999 and then again from 2009 to 2021 in a record tenure in office.
The 73-year-old remains on trial over corruption allegations, which he denies.
– ‘Worried’ –
The presidency statement said 28 lawmakers had recommended Herzog tap Netanyahu’s centrist rival, outgoing premier Yair Lapid, while 28 others abstained.
Four parties, including Mansour Abbas’s Islamist Raam, which made history by supporting Lapid’s coalition government following elections last year, refused to recommend any candidate for the premiership.
Netanyahu will likely have to juggle demands from his extreme-right allies for policy commitments and cabinet posts, but is not expected to face insurmountable challenges during the coalition negotiations.
Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, co-leaders of the Religious Zionism bloc, have publicly demanded control of two key ministries — public security and defence.
Ben-Gvir, a firebrand known for anti-Arab rhetoric and incendiary calls for Israel to annex the entire West Bank, has called repeatedly for the security services to use more force in countering Palestinian unrest.
The election result came against the backdrop of soaring violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Herzog, whose role is largely symbolic, was reported to have tried to convince the outgoing Lapid and his defense minister Benny Gantz, to form a unity cabinet with Netanyahu, in order to keep Ben-Gvir from entering government.
The presidency publicly denied the claims.
On Thursday, Herzog was caught on tape warning about Ben-Gvir. “You have a partner who the entire world around us is worried about,” he said.
“I have also said this to him (Netanyahu). This is really not for publication. I don’t want to cause problems,” he told ultra-Orthodox leaders, apparently unaware his microphone was switched on.
The US on Thursday labelled Ben-Gvir “repugnant” after he appeared at a memorial event for a Jewish extremist.