Despite the decisive victory by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud party in the March 17 Israeli election, the negotiations to build the Jewish state’s next coalition government could take up the entire 42-day time period allotted by Israeli law.
In his victory speech, Netanyahu called on the heads of the parties of Israel’s nationalist camp “to join me and set up a government without delay.”
“Reality does not give us a time-out,” Netanyahu said. “The people of Israel expect us to quickly form a leadership that will work for them, as we promised, in the security, economic and social realms. This is what I will do.”
The prime minister expressed hope that he could form a government within two to three weeks of receiving the mandate to do so. It is likely that Netanyahu will seek to increase the number of ministers in the next government and change the law passed by the last government that limits the number of ministers to 18. If the ratio is increased to one minister for every three Members of Knesset, Likud will likely have 10 ministers. Netanyahu wants MKs Benny Begin and Tzachi Hanegbi to receive portfolios. Other Likud candidates for ministerial positions include Ofir Akunis, Yariv Levin, Ze’ev Elkin, Haim Katz, Danny Danon, Miri Regev, Gila Gamliel, and Tzipi Hotovely. Yuli Edelstein is expected to stay on as Knesset speaker.
Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon will likely be the next finance minister. Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman is demanding the defense portfolio, and if Netanyahu accedes, then Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett will be the next foreign minister. Shas party leader Aryeh Deri wants to be interior minister, and the United Torah Judaism party will seek the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee as well as a deputy ministerial position with no supervising minister, such as in the Ministry of Health.