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 he has positioned himself as a unifier since taking office last year. One of his few actual powers is being able to choose the person with the best chances of putting together a coalition government after elections. Throughout a close election campaign it looked like 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 his consultation with all the parties in parliament to hear their recommendations before he officially tasks Netanyahu. Rivlin used the platform to call for unity.
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 about the divisive language.
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.
Netanyahu's Likud won the election by capturing 30 seats in the 120-member parliament. It looks to have a relatively easy time putting together a 61-seat majority along with its nationalist and religious allies.