NETANYAHU BECOMES ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER AFTER ALL INVITES LIVNI, BARAK TO JOIN
FEB 20 2009
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Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu's first action after his designation as prime minister by President Shimon Peres Friday, Feb. 20 was to announce he would start coalition negotiations by inviting Kadima's Tzipi Livni and Labor's Ehud Barak to join a unity government.
He reversed a former plan for building a government with
right-of-center and religious factions before inviting Kadima and Labor to
In his acceptance speech, he appealed to all Likud's rivals to set their differences aside in view of the formidable threats facing the country: A nuclear armed Iran, the direst peril confronting Israel since its War of Independence, and a major world economic crisis which could cost hundreds of thousands of Israelis their livelihood. Netanyahu stressed his commitment to national security, peace and prosperity.
The call for a unity government is shared by all the right-of-center and religious parties, including Avigdor Lieberman's nationalist Israel Beitenu.
Labor and left-wing Meretz have backed out of the contest and opted for opposition as has Livni at least for now. But the bargaining is just beginning. Netanyahu hopes to lure Labor's Ehud Barak into remaining at defense at least for the interim even if the main body of his party stays out. Livni is under pressure of a party revolt calling for Kadima to join Netanyahu's administration.
None of the leading parties won a large enough share of the vote in the Feb.10 general election to form a government without partners.
After Kadima led with 28 seats (out of 120), its leader Livni demanded to be entrusted with forming a government. However, Likud was only one place behind. The parties consulted by the president Wednesday, Feb. 18, endorsed Netanyahu's candidacy for prime minister by a majority of 65, while Livni found herself alone with her own party.
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