Coalition Delay |

Peres Grants Netanyahu Two More Weeks to Form Israel's Next Government

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President Shimon Peres on Saturday granted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two more weeks to form Israel's next government.

Netanyahu arrived Saturday evening at the president's residence in Jerusalem to officially ask him for the extension, after failing to negotiate a parliamentary majority in the 28-day timeframe he was given by the president.

The prime minister told Peres said that he is very close to securing a coalition, but that he needs more time because of political "boycotts."

Netanayhu has publically stated that he aims to form a broad coalition, but after a month of negotiations it seems unlikely that Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi will agree to join a government that includes ultra-Orthodox parties. Netanyahu hinted to Peres on Saturday that the blame behind the delay lies with Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, and Habayi Hayehudi's Naftali Bennet, who have formed an alliance.  

"The main reason that I have not managed to form a coalition is because there are boycotts," Netanyahu told the president. "I am doing everything I can to unite the nation," he said. "There is a boycott of the public in Israel," Netanyahu said, referring to ultra-Orthodox Israelis, "and this is not appropriate in my view." 

"As Jews we have suffered boycotts, we know that Israel is boycotted in international forums," he continued. "We cry out, and rightly so, when products of the residents of Judea and Samaria are boycotted."

"In my view, we have suffered many tragedies as a result of baseless hatred and civil strife. I want to use the next few days to form a broad government. I hope the leaders of the parties will show leadership and responsibility. To do this, I need more time," the prime minister said.  

Peres tapped Netanyahu for the task of forming the government after his Likud-Beiteinu party came first in the January election.

According to Israeli law, a candidate can be given up to 6 weeks for the task. If a candidate fails to complete the task at the end of the two-week extension, the law allows the president to assign another candidate with the task, after consulting Knesset party heads. If no government is then formed, a new election may take place.

In the four weeks Netanayhu was given to form a coalition, he was only able to secure one party, Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah, to join his future coalition.

Referring to possibility of the ultra-Orthodox parties staying in the opposition, Lapid wrote on Facebook on Saturday that "no harm would come if they will not sit in the next government."

With no coalition in place, the upcoming visit of U.S. President Barack Obama, set for the end of this month, may be postponed. The White House has said that Obama will only visit Israel once a new governing coalition is in place. 

In a meeting on February 2, President Shimon Peres (right) granted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 28 days to form a government.Credit: Reuters

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