“The country had its say,” a Likud spokesman said. “The people want a nationalist government under Netanyahu.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Monday’s election “the biggest win of my life” in his victory speech at Expo Tel Aviv, which started at 2:20 a.m. Tuesday. But by late Tuesday, it appeared there was no guarantee he would even be given a chance to form a government.
Likud sources said Netanyahu wanted to form a government as soon as possible and that he aimed to complete the process before his corruption trial begins on March 17. But President Reuven Rivlin will be taking his time in enabling a government to be formed, the exact opposite of what he did after the April and September elections.
It is possible a candidate may not be given a mandate to form a government until the following week. The final date for Rivlin to give a mandate to form a government is Tuesday, March 17, the start of Netanyahu’s trial.
“The consultations ahead of the granting of a mandate to form a government on a candidate will happen after the results will be clear, official and final,” the President’s Residence said.
One possibility for Rivlin is not to grant any candidate a mandate to form a government if neither Netanyahu nor Blue and White leader Benny Gantz obtain a clear, 61-MK blocking majority, KAN veteran political analyst Yaron Deckel reported Tuesday night. He could instead give the mandate straight to the Knesset, initiating a 21-day period in which any candidate could form a government.
Netanyahu convened his bloc of right-wing parties on Tuesday at the Knesset to begin the process of forming a new governing coalition. The MKs decided they would continue to coordinate as one bloc under Netanyahu’s leadership to form a right-wing government as soon as possible. They also decided not to rule out adding other parties, except the Joint List.
In his victory speech, the prime minister said he would form a nationalist government. He did not rule out adding parties from the Center and Left, but the Likud crowd shouted at him not to form a national unity government with Blue and White.
Netanyahu met for an hour and a half on Tuesday morning with Shas leader Arye Deri. United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said on the way to the meeting of the bloc that he expected a government to be formed soon that would not include Blue and White or Yisrael Beytenu.
Likud officials had already spoken to four possible defectors from parties to the left of Likud. MKs suspected of being on that list issued denials, the prime minister’s spokesman, Yonatan Urich, told Army Radio on Tuesday morning.
“We have not been contacted, they will not contact us and they know why,” right-wing Blue and White MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel wrote on Twitter.
Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich, whose criticism of Gantz was revealed in a tape of party strategist Israel Bachar on Thursday, tweeted: “These are all rumors. It won’t happen.”
Gantz ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led government, as have MKs Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon. Gantz delivered what was anything but a concession speech to his party’s activists late Monday night.
He called on the activists to wait for the results before deciding the outcome of the race.
Netanyahu fell just short of a 61-seat blocking majority in the April election and failed to form a government, Gantz said, adding that the same could happen again.
“We need to raise our heads and wait for the final results, because they could end up being no different than the race in April, when we remained strong and united,” he said.
Gantz predicted that Blue and White’s support would go up when the final votes were counted. But he said he knew the activists wanted better results.
“I am partner to your feelings of disappointment and pain,” he said. “These results will not return Israel to the ideal path.”
Bashing Netanyahu and Likud, Gantz said Blue and White faced “the lowest campaign in the history of Israel.”
“We endured many smears,” he said. “Israel needs to heal, it needs unity, it needs reconciliation and leadership, and we will continue to offer it to the public,” he said.
Asking the activists for patience, he concluded: “The path might be difficult, but ultimately at the end of that path, we will win.”
Speaking to reporters outside his home in Rosh Ha’ayin on Tuesday afternoon, Gantz cautioned against prejudging the outcome of the race before final votes are counted.
“Netanyahu does not have 61 votes to form a government,” he said. “We will consider our path. We respect the word of the voters. We were, are and will remain obligated to the fate of the State of Israel.”
Labor-Gesher-Meretz leader Amir Peretz, who led the left-wing list to only seven seats according to the votes counted by Tuesday, could face an attempt to topple him.
His No. 2 in Labor, MK Itzik Shmuli, called Peretz’s achievement “the most horrible result ever” and said it “requires soul-searching.”