Netanyahu Meets Lieberman in Bid to Feel Out Coalition Deal

If religious and rightist parties all recommend Netanyahu, he will get first crack at forming coalition.

Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in Israel

Following an inconclusive election on Tuesday, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu met with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem on Wednesday in efforts to forge a coalition deal that would pave Netanyahu's path to the premier's seat.

Kadima won 28 of 120 Knesset seats in Tuesday's vote, putting it narrowly ahead of the rightist Likud, which garnered 27 seats. The chairs of both Likud and Kadima claimed victory Tuesday night, each arguing the right to form and lead the next government. The two parties began intensive efforts Wednesday to form rival coalitions.

Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu Party won 15 seats, is seen as the pivotal coalition partner, without whom neither party will be able to form a stable coalition.

Lieberman held coalition talks with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni earlier in the day.

Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu met with Eli Yishai, whose ultra-Orthodox Shas party received 11 seats in general elections a day earlier.

During their talks, the two party leaders analyzed the election results and agreed on the need to forge a right-wing government under Netanyahu's leadership.

Yishai on Wednesday morning told Army Radio that, "We committed ourselves before the election to recommend Benjamin Netanyahu to the president. The people's choice is a rightist government. This, of course, doesn't rule anything out."

The Shas leader was referring to President Shimon Peres legal obligation to consult with all the parties as to who they prefer as prime minister, after which whoever is recommended by more Knesset members is given the nod.

Hence if the religious and rightist parties all recommend Netanyahu, he would get first crack at forming a government.

Yishai is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday with Kadima Minister Shaul Mofaz, with whom he spoke earlier in the day, as well as with the leaders of United Torah Judaism and The National Union.