President Shimon Peres took the first step toward ushering in a new government on Wednesday when he asked the newly elected lawmakers to name their preferred choice for prime minister.
Representatives of the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu faction and the centrist Yesh Atid, whose Knesset lists won the most seats in the Jan. 22 elections, were the first to be invited. Representatives from the remaining parties were scheduled to visit the President's Residence on Thursday in a sequence determined by their respective representation in the 19th Knesset (from largest to smallest).
Peres, who received the official election results on Wednesday from Central Elections Committee Chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, is expected to task Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the job of establishing a new coalition after he completes his consultations with the various parties. A decision could be announced on Thursday or Friday.
"I congratulate Israel's citizens for carrying out their civic duty with honor and for participating in the process that is designed to shape the country's future," Peres said on Wednesday after meeting with Rubinstein. "I am well-aware that the law entrusts me with immense responsibility. I plan to perform this role in a way that fully adheres to the law and reflects a commitment to the state's citizenry."
Rubinstein commented on his role as the chief overseer of the election, saying, "it may be time to revisit the regulations on campaign ads and the restrictions on various forms of propaganda in light of the major difficulties in enforcing these rules."
"Perhaps the next time around a miracle will happen and the law will be amended," he said.
The Likud-Yisrael Beytenu delegation recommended Netanyahu be designated as the prospective head of the new government. Following consultations with the president, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) said "we think there needs to be a stable and broad government."
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who met with Peres shortly afterward, also recommended Netanyahu for the job. Peres congratulated Lapid for his successful election showing, telling him, "Your accomplishment is unique; I also tried to form a party but compared to you, we got out of that ordeal by the skin of our teeth."
Toward the end of the meeting Lapid commented that "in the past, the parties would hold intense negotiations over whom they would recommend before the president. This was not the case this time around; our party platform says that the head of the largest party should be designated as the next prime minister and we stand by that provision," Lapid said. "We do not play games; this [the recommendation of Netanyahu as premier because his list won the most seats] is what my colleagues and I communicated to the president."
Lapid stressed that "our recommendation does not mean we will sit in the coalition, but we will work to have a government that has zero ministers without portfolio; a government that ushers in a more equitable way of sharing the national service burden; and returns to the negotiating table."
"I want to raise expectations," Lapid said.