Israel picks Netanyahu to form government

Right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu will be asked to form the next Israeli government, the office of President Shimon Peres said in a statement on Friday, 10 days after a parliamentary election provided no clear winner.

The Likud party chief was due to meet the head of state at about 2.15pm (12.15 GMT) to receive a formal invitation to head the next administration, it said.

Netanyahu, who was prime minister in the 1990s, would then have six weeks to forge a coalition Cabinet.

Peres met separately earlier in the day with Netanyahu and centrist Kadima party head Tzipi Livni to try persuade them to form a unity government, a presidential spokesperson said.

Both lay claim to the premiership after an inconclusive February 10 election gave Kadima 28 seats in the 120-member Parliament to 27 for Likud, but also handed a majority of seats to right-leaning parties.

Livni hinted after her meeting with Peres that her position had not changed — she is not prepared to join a national unity coalition with the Likud leader unless she is prime minister.

It would be ”a coalition that doesn’t allow me to pursue my path, the path of Kadima as we promised the voters”, she said.

”A large government has no value if it does not have a path. The decision is now in the president’s hands.”

Asked if she was ready to go into oppostion she said: ”If necessary, certainly.”

The strong showing for right-wing parties in Parliament put Netanyahu in a better position to form a government. But the Likud leader has said he prefers a governing coalition with centrist Kadima and the left-leaning Labour Party.

Likkud officials were quoted in one newspaper on Friday as saying Netanyahu was not ready to give up trying to persuade his rival Livni to join him in a broad coalition government. — Reuters

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