Text size

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Sunday to work with United States President Barack Obama for Middle East peace by pursuing the formation of a broad coalition government.

"I intend and expect to cooperate with the Obama administration and to try to advance the common goals of peace, security and prosperity for us and our neighbors," the U.S.-educated Netanyahu told reporters.

Netanyahu was chosen on Friday by President Shimon Peres to try to forge a governing coalition and take on the premiership for the second time.

Following a February 10 election, Netanyahu already has the backing of 65 rightist members of the 120-seat parliament, but a narrow government could put him on a collision course with Obama and his promise to move quickly on a Palestinian statehood deal.

He met with Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni on Friday to try to enlist her centrist Kadima party, which favors trading large parts of the West Bank for peace, into a "national unity" government.

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, meanwhile, said Sunday that a Netanyahu-led government would enjoy good relations with Washington.

"Our enemies, unfortunately, are as common as the values and the interests that have united us for all these years," Lieberman told reporters.

"I have no doubt that with Netanyahu's government here we will have good and positive relations with the Obama administration in Washington and with members of Congress, and I look forward to playing my part in contributing to that."

Netanyahu, 59, has said he wants to shift the focus of stalled, U.S.-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians away from tough territorial issues to shoring up their economy, an approach their leaders have rejected.

As prime minister from 1996 to 1999, he clashed with the Clinton administration but bowed to U.S. pressure and handed over parts of the West Bank city of Hebron to Palestinian rule.

While not ruling out a Palestinian state, he has said it must have limited powers ensuring it is demilitarized.

Along with rival Kadima, Netanyahu advocates maintaining settlements in the West Bank, in defiance of the United States, which brought little pressure on Israel over the issue during George W. Bush's presidency.