April 16, 2019 / 10:30 AM / 2 days ago

Netanyahu passes threshold for nomination as Israel's premier

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s president said on Tuesday a majority of members of parliament had advised him to have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu form a government after the April 9 election, effectively ensuring his nomination.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 14, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

In office for the past decade, Netanyahu won a fifth term despite an announcement by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in February that he intends to charge the prime minister in three corruption cases. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.

President Reuven Rivlin chooses a party leader whom he judges has the best prospect of putting together a ruling coalition. He will announce his candidate on Wednesday.

In broadcast remarks on Tuesday, the second day of Rivlin’s consultations with political parties on their preferences for prime minister, he said Netanyahu “now has a majority of Knesset members” behind him.

“Any room I had for manoeuvre has effectively been removed at this moment,” he added.

Netanyahu’s nomination has been a foregone conclusion since right-wing and religious parties allied with Netanyahu’s Likud captured the largest number of seats in the Knesset in last week’s ballot and his closest rival, centrist Benny Gantz, conceded defeat.

Netanyahu has said he intends to build a coalition with five far-right, right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that would give the Likud-led government 65 seats, four more than his outgoing administration.

Representatives of all of those parties told Rivlin at the meetings, broadcast live on the internet, that they recommended Netanyahu.

Gantz, a former military chief of staff whose Blue and White party won 35 parliamentary seats, would likely be next in line to try to assemble a government if Netanyahu fails to do so within 42 days of being chosen by Rivlin.

Likud, like Gantz’s party, secured 35 Knesset seats, up from 30 it had won in the previous election in 2015.

Netanyahu is under no legal obligation to resign if indicted. He can still argue, at a pre-trial hearing whose date has not been set, against the formal filing of bribery and fraud charges against him.

He would become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister in July.

Editing by Mark Heinrich and Robin Pomeroy

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