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Netanyahu nominated to try to form government

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin has nominated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to try to form a government following the latest election, but voiced doubt that any candidate can forge a majority coalition.

“I have come to a decision based on the numbers of recommendations (from lawmakers), which indicates that Benjamin Netanyahu has a slightly higher chance of forming a government,” Rivlin said.

In Rivlin’s consultations with party leaders following the March 23 vote, Netanyahu was backed by 52 lawmakers elected to Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid earned 45 endorsements.

There were 16 abstentions and right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett secured seven votes from his own Yamina party.

“The results of the consultations, that 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,” Rivlin stated.

“In fact, if the law would allow me to do so, I would give the decision back to the representatives of the people.”

Rivlin referred directly to the misgivings of many Israelis about having Netanyahu try to form a government as he stands trial on corruption charges.

He said that he decided not to take Netanyahu’s ongoing trial into consideration out of a desire to protect the office of the president which “receives the trust of the public.”

“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.”

Lapid responded that he understood the president’s decision and could not object.

“The president had no choice,” Lapid said. “But giving the mandate to Netanyahu is shameful and stains Israel as a law abiding state.”

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier with a record 12 consecutive years in office, will have at least 28 days to negotiate a coalition agreement.

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