Israeli President Asks Netanyahu to Form New Government

ISRAEL (RushPRnews) 02/20/09-In a televised ceremony at the president’s office, Mr. Netanyahu accepted the invitation to form a ruling coalition. He called on his moderate rivals, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to join him in what he called “a broad national unity government.”

Livni, who had hoped to become prime minister herself, has shown little inclination to join Mr. Netanyahu’s government and has indicated that she will likely take her Kadima party into opposition.
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Mr. Netanyahu will have six weeks to put together a government. If Livni refuses to join him, he will most likely form a coalition of nationalist and religious parties that take a much more hard-line approach to possible peace talks with the Palestinians.

In his remarks after being named to head the next government, Mr. Netanyahu said he views Iran as the greatest threat to Israel’s security, reviving a familiar refrain from his campaign.

Friday’s announcement came after Mr. Peres met separately with Mr. Netanyahu and Livni, whose Kadima party won one more seat than Likud in parliamentary elections earlier this month but did not have enough support to form a government on its own.

On Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu won a major endorsement from a leading far-right party led by Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party finished third in last week’s parliamentary elections and was seen as the key to any coalition government.

Israeli Foreign Minister and Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni speaks following a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres at his residence in Jerusalem, Sunday, 26 Oct, 2008
Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni, (file photo)
Livni reacted by telling Kadima members the foundation for a far-right government led by Mr. Netanyahu has been set. She said she would rather become the political opposition than be part of such an alliance.
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Livni has been leading Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, and is determined to continue those peace talks.

Mr. Netanyahu, a former Israeli prime minister, and Lieberman are far more conservative in their approach to peace talks. Lieberman is an ultra-nationalist whom critics have called a fascist.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.