Israel president meets parties as Netanyahu set to form gov’t

(Photo: AFP)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel’s president began talks with party leaders Wednesday on the new governing coalition to be headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, after receiving official results of the November 1 election won by the veteran right-winger.اضافة اعلان

Such presidential consultations had been a source of intrigue after Israel’s four previous elections, as it was not immediately clear which leader would get the first shot at forming a coalition, or whether they would be successful.

But this month’s general election delivered a clear win for Netanyahu, who has served as prime minister longer than anyone else in Israel’s 74-year history.

His right-wing Likud and its allies — two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and the extreme-right Religious Zionism bloc — won 64 of the 120 seats in parliament.

After a period of unprecedented political gridlock, that result has given Netanyahu the majority to form a stable governing coalition, which may also be the most right-wing in Israeli history.

President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday denied reports that he was working to bring Netanyahu’s rivals — outgoing centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid and defense minister Benny Gantz — into a unity government that would sideline the controversial Jewish Power party leader, anti-Arab agitator Itamar Ben-Gvir.

“I have not worked, nor am I working, to push for the establishment of any particular government, and I am not involved in its composition or size,” Herzog said.

“I leave that task to the political system, and to it alone.”

Herzog, who assumed Israel’s largely ceremonial presidency last year, was meeting first with envoys of Netanyhu’s Likud, the largest bloc in the new parliament, which will be sworn in next week.

Representing Likud, lawmaker Miri Regev made clear the party intends for Netanyahu to “form a stable, right-wing government with a minimum four-year term”.

The president’s party consultations will continue until sundown Friday.

Herzog’s office said the president “will assign the task of forming a government this coming Sunday”.

Netanyahu will likely have to juggle demands from his extreme-right allies for policy commitments and cabinet posts, but is not expected to face insurmountable challenges during the coalition negotiations.

The ex-premier, who led Israel from 1996 to 1999 and then through a record 2009 to 2021 tenure, has already held preliminary talks with his expected coalition partners.

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