So, Who is Prime Minister of Israel?

Just like America was for quite some time, Israel is still waiting to see who the next Prime Minister will be! Following elections on March 23, it became evident very quickly that pathways to a majority in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) were very narrow. The news ebbs and flows, leaving Israelis and other to wonder who is going to be able to cobble together 61 Knesset members to form a majority.

Israelis vote for parties, not for persons, and it was clear on election night that Likud, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, remained the largest vote-getter. Furthermore, right-leaning parties collectively won by a landslide. So, it should be easy to form a right-wind government then, right?

Wrong!

Leaders of at least two right-wing parties and one centrist party have vowed not to sit in majority with current PM, Benjamin Netanyahu because of personal differences. (Yes, Israeli politics are petty, too!) Thus, the right is split and the left isn’t big enough to garner a majority. If no one can put together a coalition, Israel may face a record-breaking 5th election in the span of about 2.5 years.

Part of the process is for party leaders to meet with President Reuven Rivlin to recommend who should be given the mandate to form a government. Netanyahu has the most recommendations (52), but that still leaves him 9 seats short, assuming all party members agree with their leader. (Not always the case, but most of the time.)

So, the drama continues! Once Rivlin issues the mandate to one of the party leaders, that leader will have 28 days (and a 14-day extension at Rivlin’s discretion) to put together a majority. If unable, the mandate returns to President Rivlin who may offer it to another party leader, or punt it to the general Knesset to attempt to form a majority of whoever will join.

Yes, Israeli politics are as messy as American politics! Stay tuned!

(You can read more in Drama Across Jerusalem.)

UPDATE: President Reuven Rivlin handed the mandate to Benjamin Netanyahu to form a majority coalition. He has 28 days to put together at least 61 MK’s in coalition to form a government. If he fails, Rivlin could either extend by 14 days, offer the mandate to one of the other party leaders, or push the mandate to the Knesset to allow them an open opportunity to coalesce whomever they can to form a majority coalition. If no one is able to build a majority coalition, Israel will conduct their 5th election a few months from now.

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