Netanyahu wins clear majority to form next Israel government
JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won a clear majority of support to form a new coalition government, a spokesman for the president's office said on Monday.
President Reuven Rivlin was wrapping up two days of talks with representatives of the 10 parties elected to parliament to hear who they would recommend as prime minister, with six factions throwing their support behind Netanyahu.
"He has just met with Yisrael Beitenu and they have just recommended Netanyahu, giving him 67," presidential spokesman Jason Pearlman said, referring to the number of MPs in the 120-seat parliament who would back the Israeli leader.
Last week, Netanyahu's rightwing Likud secured a shock election victory, winning 30 seats in the Knesset with the centre-left Zionist Union following a distant second with 24.
In Israel, it is not necessarily the leader of the largest party who forms the next government and becomes premier but the one who can form a working coalition, preferably with a majority of at least 61.
Although the results were out last week, official figures will only be published on Wednesday when the Central Elections Committee chairman formally presents them to Rivlin who will have to announce his choose of leader to form the next government.
Rivlin will then invite Netanyahu to his presidential residence during the evening to formally task him with building the coalition, the presidency said.
Netanyahu will have four weeks to complete the task, although Rivlin can extend the deadline by another 14 days if necessary.
The parties backing Netanyahu are all expected to form part of his next government, which is widely seen as being a rightwing-religious coalition with a majority of 67.
Among them are Likud (30), the far-right Jewish Home (eight), hardline anti-Arab Yisrael Beitenu (six), ultra-Orthodox parties Shas (7) and United Torah Judaism (seven), and the newly formed centre-right Kulanu party of Likud defector Moshe Kahlon (10).
Throughout the election campaign, Kahlon had held his cards close to his chest, hedging his bets as most polls predicted a win for the Zionist Union.
But after Netanyahu's decisive victory, Kahlon threw his support behind Netanyahu, in a move formalised in talks with Rivlin on Monday.
Netanyahu has promised Kahlon the powerful finance portfolio.
Four parties are entering the opposition: the Zionist Union, the Joint List which groups Israel's main Arab parties, the centrist Yesh Atid and the leftwing Meretz party.