Senior officials from the Likud Party, which won the most seats in the election for the 24th Knesset, hit out at President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin on Wednesday after he implied he would hand the mandate to form Israel's next government to the candidate most likely to succeed in the task rather than the candidate who receives the most recommendations from fellow lawmakers.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana published a joint statement in which they opined that "the president does not determine the results of the election" and blamed him for being a political actor as they deemed his statement to be too open to interpretation for their liking.
"Since the establishment of the state, all Israeli presidents have given the opportunity to form a government to the candidate that received the largest number of recommendations first — and this should be the case this time as well," the statement read.
In response, the President's Residence issued a statement in which it said it regretted the Likud bigwigs' remarks and reiterated his message.
"The remarks directed at the president by ministers and speaker of Knesset does do them credit and it would have been better if they were not said," the statement read.
"As the president had said, the main consideration that will guide him in choosing the candidate to whom he will hand the task of forming the government is the candidate's chances of forming a government that will win Knesset's endorsement. This is what all previous Israeli presidents have done for generations and this is how the president acted in all the previous election campaigns."
After receiving the official poll results from the Central Elections Committee (CEC), Rivlin said he was "hopeful that elected representatives would adhere to the people's demand for unusual alliances, cross-sectoral collaborations, and professional and dedicated work for the sake of all Israeli citizens."
The 81-year-old also called on the future administration to address the country's burning issues such as passing a state budget, "healing the systems and citizens [hurt during the COVID-19 pandemic]", and "rescuing state bodies from the political deadlock."
Representatives from the 13 parties that will comprise the next Knesset will arrive at President Rivlin’s residence in Jerusalem next Monday for consultations that will be broadcast live at his own request.
Each party will be given 15 minutes for consultations, during which Rivlin will ask each representative for their first and second pick, and another 15 minutes to address the press.
Neither the anti- nor pro-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocs seem to have a clear 61-seat majority in the 120-strong Knesset to form a viable coalition government, with the right-wing Yamina and Islamist Ra'am parties poised as potential kingmakers.
Meanwhile, the battle for the leadership of the bock bloc seeking to unseat Prime Minister Netanyahu is escalating as New Hope chief Gideon Saar threw his weight behind Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett and called on Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid "drop his ego."
Lapid called in response to give him the mandate to form the government but made it clear that he would be willing to make concessions afterward.
At the same time, Prime Minister Netanyahu's bloc maintains media silence.