Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:56 pm (KSA) 15:56 pm (GMT)

Netanyahu accepts to form Israel's next govt

Netanyahu  was formally asked by the Israeli president to form the Israeli govt
Netanyahu was formally asked by the Israeli president to form the Israeli govt

Right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday accepted a mandate to form Israel's next government and immediately called for a broad, national unity coalition with centrist and left-wing partners. Netanyahu quickly named Iran as Israel's main threat. Palestinian president
Mahmud Abbas announced that the PLO will not deal with the new Israeli government if it is not committed to peace; while Hamas said that Israel has picked the most extremist politician to lead the country.

Netanyahu, 59, leads the Likud party. He was prime minister in the 1990s and now has six weeks to put together a parliamentary majority for a second turn at the helm.

Likud more than doubled its seats in the election 10 days ago in which the security of the Jewish state was the paramount issue, after a 2006 conflict with Hezbollah Islamists in Lebanon and a war with Islamist Palestinian Hamas in Gaza last month. But there was no clear winner.

 I call on Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Labour Party chairman Ehud Barak and I say to them -- let's unite to secure the future of the State of Israel 
Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu

With 27 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Netanyahu ended up one seat behind the centrist Kadima party of Tzipi Livni, the dominant partner in the outgoing coalition.

The electorate's rightward drift, however, gave him a better chance of achieving a majority with like-minded parties.

But his nomination by President Shimon Peres on Friday was a break with Israeli tradition, which has always given a governing mandate to the leader of the first-placed party.

Seeking unity govt

 It would be a coalition that doesn't allow me to pursue my path, the path of Kadima as we promised the voters. A large government has no value if it does not have a path 
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni

Netanyahu urged his opponents to close ranks for the sake of the country and join his government:

"I call on Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Labour Party chairman Ehud Barak and I say to them -- let's unite to secure the future of the State of Israel. I ask to meet with you first to discuss with you a broad national unity government for the good of the people and the state."

Livni has so far shown no interest in joining a Netanyahu coalition.

After a last-ditch meeting with Peres on Friday failed to persuade them both to form a unity government, Livni hinted after that her position had not changed -- she is not prepared to serve under Likud leadership.

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 opposition she said: "If necessary, certainly."

Netanyahu's rivals to the left favor pursuing talks with a pragmatic Palestinian leadership, with the backing of U.S. President Barack Obama, and to hand back most of the occupied West Bank for the creation of a Palestinian state in return for peace.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas recently said that Israel does not want peace

In his brief speech, Netanyahu did not directly address the issue of stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, nor did he mention the U.S.-backed two-state solution.

In the first Palestinian response to the choice of Netanyahu as the coming Israeli prime minister, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Palestinian Authority said it will not deal with the new Israeli government if it is not committed to peace.

"We will not deal with the Israeli government unless it accepts a two-state solution and accepts to halt settlements and to respect past accords," Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

 Israel had picked the most extremist and most dangerous politician to lead the country 
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas -- the Islamist rulers Netanyahu has vowed to topple -- claimed Israel had picked "the most extremist and most dangerous" politician to lead the country.

The choice of Netanyahu "does not herald a period or peace or stability in the region," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.

U.S.-educated Netanyahu, who had poor relations with the Clinton administration during his previous term as premier, says that Israel's unilateral ceding of occupied Arab land has backfired, inspiring Islamist enemies.

He advocates a longer-term, "bottom-up" approach to peace with the Palestinians built on economic development of the West Bank and a gradual handover to Palestinian security forces.

The Iranian threat

 Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence 
Likud Leader Benjamin Netanyahu

In remarks familiar from his campaign, Netanyahu repeated that he saw Israel facing a particular threat from Iran. Like other Israeli leaders, he believes the Islamic Republic is using a nuclear energy program to develop atomic weapons that, he says, would pose a threat to Israel's existence.

"Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence," he said.

"The terrorist forces of Iran threaten us from the north," the presumptive prime minister said in reference to Lebanon and Syria, where Israel says Tehran supplies arms to Hezbollah and Hamas.

"For decades, Israel has not faced such formidable challenges. The responsibility we face is to achieve security for our country, peace with our neighbors and unity among us," he said.

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