Netanyahu seeks to surmount unexpected obstacles on path to coalition

2015-05-05 18:52
(Image: Ammar Awad, AP)

(Image: Ammar Awad, AP)

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Tel Aviv - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself with a series of unexpected obstacles in government coalition talks on Tuesday, a day ahead of a deadline for him to present a new government.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, of the Jewish Home party, has toughened his demands to join Netanyahu's government, aides said on Tuesday. His tougher stance comes after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's surprise announcement that his Israel Beiteinu party will not return to a Netanyahu-led coalition.

Netanyahu had counted on Lieberman - until now considered a natural and almost obvious partner - in his plans to form a right-wing, religious coalition with a 67-seat majority in the Israel's 120-seat parliament. 

Now the incumbent depends upon Bennett, without whom he lack a Knesset majority.

Netanyahu's right-wing, nationalist Likud party signed a coalition agreement with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party late on Monday. Last week, he signed on the centre-right Kulanu party as well as the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party. 

Together, the four parties have 53 seats. Netanyahu needs Bennett for a slim, 61-seat majority. 

His 42 days for forming the government are up on Wednesday night.

A Jewish Home official said the party was angry that Netanyahu had given an important ministry with control over religious institutions to Shas. The Jewish Home in response raised several new demands, said the official. 

Exceeding predictions, Netanyahu's right-wing, nationalist Likud won 30 seats in the March 17 election. But Israel's multiparty system makes coalition negotiations highly complex.

Netanyahu still has a decent chance of presenting his fourth government by the Wednesday midnight deadline. But, if he fails, President Reuven Rivlin can appoint the task of forming a government to another lawmaker. That would then likely be Labour Party leader Isaac Herzog.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel

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