President Reuven Rivlin met with representatives of all 13 parties represented in the Knesset yesterday, to receive their nominations for Prime Minister, despite expressing doubt that any party would be able to form a coalition.
There are 120 Members of the Knesset, and a coalition therefore needs 61 members. After that, the arithmetic gets very tricky.
Likud is the largest party with 30 MKs, and its leader, the incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu, has the support of Shas (9), UTJ (7) and Religious Zionism (6), for a total of 52. Yesh Atid is the second largest party with 17 MKs, and its leader, Yair Lapid, has the support of Blue & White (8); Labor (7); Yisrael Beitenu (7) and Meretz (6), for a total of 45. Not part of any bloc at the moment are Yamina (7), which has nominated its own leader Naftali Bennett to be PM; New Hope (6); Joint List (6) and Ra'am (4) which have all abstained from nominating anyone.
If Netanyahu were to stand down, it would seem likely that New Hope's six MKs would return 'home' to Likud with support from either Yamina or Yisrael Beitenu securing a right-wing coalition. Bibi's great problem is having so many opponents saying that they will not work with him personally.
A left-wing coalition, on the other hand, would require cooperation between parties with radically different outlooks. It requires support from either the economically right-wing Yamina and New Hope plus at least one of the Arab parties. Mansour Abbas, leader of Ra'am, has expressed willingness to work with either side, but Naftali Bennett's strong support for West Bank settlers puts him at odds with not only Ra'am but also many other MKs on the left. On the other hand, reports of Bennett reneging on his pledge not to support a Lapid-led administration are gaining ground with rumours that he is now close to agreeing a rotation agreement with Lapid with Bennett getting first shot as Prime Minister. With the currently unstable nature of Israeli politics, there is no guarantee that a coalition would hold together long enough for Bennett ever to hand over to Lapid. The greatest danger to Bennett may be the prospect of right-wing voters not forgiving him for entering into an alliance with left-wing parties and an Arab party but, on the other hand, Bennett is known to be very ambitious to be PM and he may see this as too good an opportunity to turn down.