Netanyahu gets nod to form new Israeli government
Netanyahu, who was tapped by President Shimon Peres, has six weeks to form a coalition government.
JERUSALEM – Benjamin Netanyahu urged his top rivals on Friday to join his government after he was formally tapped to put together the country’s next coalition – a tricky alliance that would dilute the power of nationalists opposed to Mideast peace talks but team him up with politicians far more moderate than he is.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Netanyahu opposes sweeping territorial concessions to the Palestinians and wants to expand Jewish West Bank settlements, but embracing centrist factions would give him a more stable government and international support. The alternative would be a narrow coalition of rightwingers sure to collide with the Obama administration and its ambitious plans for ending 60 years of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I call on the members of all the factions ... to set politics aside and put the good of the nation at the center,” Netanyahu said during a brief ceremony at President Shimon Peres’s residence in Jerusalem, where he was officially assigned the coalition-building task.
In his appeal, Netanyahu singled out “first and foremost” Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the governing Kadima party, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, chairman of the Labor Party. Ms. Livni, the key to a broad-based government, indicated she might be willing to come on board. But because Kadima retained its position as Israel’s largest party in Feb. 10 elections, she would certainly exact a high price: sharing the premiership she so fervently sought with Netanyahu, who doesn’t want to serve for only half a term.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said any future Israeli government that doesn’t accept the establishment of a Palestinian state and continues settlement building “will not be a partner."
“We will not be in the negotiations for the sake of negotiations,” Mr. Erekat said.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Islamic militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip, said Netanyahu’s appointment “indicates that there is no possibility for security and stability in the region in the coming period.” Hamas is not party to peace talks and is shunned by Israel and Western powers as a terrorist organization.
Netanyahu has six weeks to form a government. Should he fail, the task would fall to another politician.
Livni, who led Israeli negotiators in a year of peace talks with the Palestinians, agreed to meet with Netanyahu on Sunday to discuss his unity overture. Earlier Friday, she said she would not join a hard-line government and was prepared to sit in the opposition “if necessary.”