Israeli President Shimon Peres has tapped Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to make the first attempt to form a coalition government in the wake of last week’s elections. The announcement was widely expected after Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman endorsed Netanyahu, and the former prime minister will now have 42 days to secure at least 61 seats and become prime minister again.
Netanyahu will be meeting Sunday with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, whose party came in first in the election, in an attempt to coax them into joining a broad coalition government. Livni had previously ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led coalition, but has now said she will consider it if Lieberman is involved and if certain parties in the religious-right (notably Shas) are not involved.
The Likud party has two obvious routes to a coalition, both involving Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. They can either try to form a far-right coalition with all the parties that endorsed him, facing a center-left opposition, or cut out the religious right and try to form a center-right secularist government with Lieberman and Livni.
Lieberman has said he will join a Likud coalition, but he has demanded enormous concessions in return for doing so. The controversial right-winger wants to be foreign minister, and wants both public security and justice ministers from his party. Netanyahu must now decide if he can afford to say no, and if he has any other options for a coalition government without Lieberman.