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Middle east

Netanyahu calls on rivals to help form unity govt

Video by Philip CROWTHER

Text by Khatya CHHOR

Latest update : 2009-02-22

Israeli President Shimon Peres (right) has asked Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government. The hawkish former premier called on the centrist Kadima party and left-wing Labour to join him in forming a broad coalition.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish Likud party leader and Israel's likely next prime minister, is looking to form a coalition government with his political rivals.

Netanyahu was asked to form a new government on Friday after a tight Feb. 10 general election left the Israeli leadership in limbo. While the centrist Kadima party of Tzipi Livni won the popular vote, Netanyahu’s Likud mustered more support in parliament, paving the way for him to take the top spot. Along with the 15 seats of the nationalist Israel Beiteinu party of Avigdor Lieberman, who has thrown his support behind Likud, Netanyahu now commands 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. 

But his majority in parliament does not guarantee a workable government, and Netanyahu has already made it clear that he will look to bring Israel’s other political parties into a broad coalition.

At a press conference following his appointment by President Shimon Peres, Netanyahu called for the formation of a “broad national unity government,” calling on Kadima’s Livni and Labour party leader Ehud Barak to unite with Likud “to secure the future of the state of Israel”.

FRANCE 24’s Jerusalem correspondent Annette Young says it would be to Netanyahu’s political advantage to form a broad ruling coalition. “He knows that an ultra right-wing government would be unstable, would certainly find little favour in Washington and, most likely, [would] lead to another election before too long,” she says.

A decidedly right-wing government led by Likud would also fail to represent the politics of the Israeli population, prolonging instability within the leadership and possibly leading to calls for another early election. FRANCE 24’s Guillaume Auda says Kadima winning 28 Knesset seats is “a sign that Israelis do not want a total shift to the right”.

A right-leaning leadership would also set off alarm bells abroad, among those who suspect that Netanyahu will not be as amenable to pursuing a two-state solution with the Palestinians as the centrist outgoing Kadima party. Auda says a conservative Israeli government would be a “tough sell internationally”, since it would pose new challenges to the peace process.


For her part, Livni has expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of a coalition. “A broad government has no value if it doesn’t lead anywhere,” she told reporters.

Netanyahu now has 28 days in which to form a ruling coalition, and Young predicts that a lot of deal-making will need to take place before that happens. “We’re going to see plenty of horse trading between now and when a new government is finally formed,” she says.


Date created : 2009-02-21