JERUSALEM – After being officially asked to form Israel’s next government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that he would try to put together as broad a coalition as possible to cope with the country’s domestic and international challenges.
Netanyahu, head of the Likud Party, won the endorsement of 82 newly elected lawmakers to form a coalition government after the Jan. 22 elections. In accordance with Israeli law, he will have the next three weeks to put together a majority coalition in the 120-member parliament.
The prime minister said his top priorities would be confronting Iran’s nuclear development program, which Western governments believe is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, and restarting Palestinian peace talks.
Though Netanyahu did not mention Israel’s airstrike last week on a Syrian weapons convoy near Damascus, he cited the challenges of the region’s instability. “We will also have to deal with other lethal weapons that are building up in our area and with threats against our cities and our citizens,” he said.
Even before Israel President Shimon Peres formally gave Netanyahu the task of putting together a government, coalition talks were under way.
Netanyahu is expected to partner with centrist Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party won 19 seats. Combined with Likud’s 20 seats and nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu’s 11 seats, that would give Netanyahu 50 seats.
For the remainder he is considering the ultra-Orthodox parties, the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home and the centrist Kadima.
The left-leaning Labor Party, which won 15 seats, has vowed to boycott Netanyahu’s government.