Benjamin Netanyahu had six weeks to form a government after the March 17 elections
His right-wing coalition has shrunk from 67 seats to 61 in the 120-seat Knesset
Zionist Union's Isaac Herzog calls it "government of national failure" on Twitter
With just an hour to spare before a deadline, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late Wednesday that he has succeeded in forming a coalition government.
According to Israel Radio, Netanyahu came to an agreement with the final party required for a coalition, the right-wing Jewish Home party, at 10:30 p.m. local time.
“During the last couple of weeks, I’m sure nobody has been surprised that these negotiations have gone on with all of the different members of the coalition,” said Netanyahu to Israel Radio.
“And they should not be surprised that they’re coming to an end, but the deadline is pressing. I’m leaving here to call the President and the head of the Knesset and tell them that I have it in my hands to put together a government.”
President Reuven Rivlin, who spoke with Netanyahu over the phone at 11:10 p.m., thanked the Prime Minister and said, “I congratulate you on completing the formation of the government. I have received your letter of confirmation, and look forward to the convening of the Knesset as soon as possible, to approve the government.”
Netanyahu had six weeks to form a government after the March 17 elections in which his Likud party won 30 seats. They beat his main rival, Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog, who won 24 seats. Netanyahu now has one week to present his coalition and Cabinet to the Knesset.
Netanyahu’s government is likely to be a right-wing government with 61 seats out of a 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, the bare minimum to form a coalition.
One of his primary coalition partners, Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, announced in recent days that he was leaving the coalition and resigning his post as foreign minister, which would cut Netanyahu’s coalition from a strong 67 seats to a weak 61 seats.
Netanyahu acknowledged the challenges of holding together a government of 61 seats in his interview with Israel Radio.
“I have to put [the government] together next week, which is something I have to do in order for it to be a strong government. I need the nation of Israel behind me. Sixty-one is a good number. Sixty-one plus is a better number. But it begins with 61. And we are beginning. There is a lot of work in front of us,” said Netanyahu.
Herzog took to social media to blast the new coalition, calling it a “government without responsibility” and a “government of national failure” on Twitter.