Monday, 16 September 2019 08:35 GMT

Palestine- Netanyahu races to form government ahead of deadline

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was locked in a last-ditch effort Wednesday to piece together a ruling coalition with a working majority ahead of a midnight deadline.

With just a few hours left, talks with the far-right Jewish Home - the only potential coalition partner yet to agree to join a Netanyahu government - took on heightened urgency.

If Netanyahu manages to sign the party, as expected, it would give him a razor-thin majority of 61 within the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.

If he fails, President Reuven Rivlin will ask another party leader to form a government - most likely Isaac Herzog, head of the centre-left Zionist Union, which won 24 seats in the March election.

Netanyahu's success or failure rests in the hands of Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who raised the stakes in the negotiations by demanding ministerial portfolios for all eight Knesset members of his party.

Without his support, Netanyahu, who began his second term as premier in 2009, will fail and the rightwing religious government he had been hoping to form will never see the light of day.

If Netanyahu can form a government he is expected to continue his robust foreign policy - marked by virulent attacks on Iran - and to maintain a hard line on the issue of concessions to the Palestinians.

Public radio reported Wednesday evening that talks between the sides were continuing.

The deadline is midnight (2100 GMT), although Netanyahu does not need to present his final line-up but merely inform the president that he has sufficient support to form a government.

The main sticking point has been the justice ministry portfolio, which Bennett was demanding but Netanyahu wanted to keep for his rightwing Likud party.

By early afternoon, Netanyahu appeared to have capitulated, Israel's main news outlets said, with the portfolio likely to be given to Ayelet Shaked, number three within Jewish Home.

Palestine- Netanyahu races to form government ahead of deadline


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