JERUSALEM — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said Sunday that the new Israeli government will have to serve “all the citizens of Israel,” and called for the country to begin a “healing process” after a stormy election campaign that highlighted deep internal divisions.
Rivlin serves a mostly ceremonial role and has positioned himself as a unifier since taking office last year. One of his few actual powers is choosing the person with the best chances of putting together a coalition government after elections. Throughout a close election campaign it seemed he would have a crucial role to play after the vote but a resounding victory by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has made his considerations mostly moot.
On Sunday, Rivlin began meeting with all the parties in parliament to hear their recommendations before he officially tasks Netanyahu.
Eitan Cabel, a senior leader of the center-left’s Zionist Union, which captured 24 seats to Likud’s 30, told the president they had “no intention” of being part of a coalition. Meanwhile the Joint List, a union of Arab parties, told the president they had no recommendation.
“We see in Benjamin Netanyahu a dangerous person, he is dangerous to democracy,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said.
Rivlin also met Sunday with Likud. He was scheduled to talk Monday with centrist parties Yesh Atid and Kulanu.
In a last-ditch attempt to spur his supporters to the polls last week, Netanyahu warned that Arab citizens were voting “in droves” and endangering years of rule by his right-wing Likud Party. The comments drew accusations of racism from Israeli Arabs and a White House rebuke.
Alluding to the uproar, Rivlin told Likud representatives that the emerging government will have to serve “all the citizens of Israel, Jews and Arabs.”
“We have been through a stormy and passionate election period — this is the time to begin a process of mending and healing in Israeli society,” he said.
By winning 30 seats in the 120-member parliament, Netanyahu’s Likud looks to have a relatively easy time putting together a 61-seat majority along with its nationalist and religious allies.