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Israeli president assigns Netanyahu to form next government,Israeli president Netanyahu, Israel Government

Israeli president assigns Netanyahu to form next government

Jerusalem, (IANS) Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has announced that he is formally tasking incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the role of forming the upcoming government, following last week's elections.

Rivlin, who received the official results of last Tuesday's elections from the head of the Central Elections Committee Justice Salim Jubran earlier on Wednesday, told reporters in his Jerusalem chambers that the people of Israel talked "loud and clear" in the elections, giving Netanyahu's right wing Likud party 30 out of 120 seats in the upcoming Knesset (parliament), Xinhua reported.

"There are three critical tasks the upcoming government must handle," Rivlin said at a joint press conference with Netanyahu in Jerusalem. "Solidifying the close relationship we have with our greatest ally the US, mending the rifts among sectors in the Israeli society which have intensified in the past elections campaign, and maintaining a stable government that would rule for its entire term," Rivlin said.

Rivlin implicitly criticized Netanyahu who, on election day, urged his voters to head to the polls, charging "droves of Arabs" are bussed to the polls to topple his regime by left-wing organisations.

"Harsh things were said in this campaign that shouldn't have been said," Rivlin said. Earlier on Wednesday, after receiving the results of the elections, Rivlin made an explicit reference to Netanyahu's contentious statement, saying that "those who are afraid of votes in a ballot box will eventually see stones thrown in the street," adding that it is "awful" that the democratic duty to vote could be shown to be as a "curse."

Netanyahu, on his part, said he sees himself as prime minister of all of Israel's citizens and that he would work to mend the rifts in the Israeli society. He also called Israelis to "put the elections behind us."

The incumbent prime minister said he would work with his government on the economic level, to lower the housing and food prices and dismantle market monopolies, and that Israel would work to solidify its relationship with the US.

He also said Israel seeks peace with its Palestinian neighbors and that there's a horizon of cooperation with other Arab countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia, amid the objection to the upcoming deal over Iran's nuclear program, which he again criticized as "bad."

The already rocky relations between Israel and the United States had been in the spotlight in recent days, with US President Barack Obama criticizing Netanyahu for his election campaign statement, saying no Palestinian state will be established if he will be elected to another term in office.

Netanyahu has tried to backtrack off the statement on interview to US media outlets, but Obama said the US administration would have to reevaluate its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its resolution, possibly threatening to remove the diplomatic shield it provided to Israel on international forums.

Throughout Sunday and Monday, Rivlin met with members of the Israeli political parties in order to get their recommendations on which politician has the best odds of forming a government, amid the results of the elections.

As expected, 67 members of parliament from the right wing and ultra-Orthodox parties recommended Netanyahu, whose Likud party received 30 (out of 120) seats in the upcoming parliament, as opposed to the center-left's Zionist Union party, which got 24 seats.

Twenty-nine members of parliament recommended the Zionist Union's leader Isaac Herzog.
Netanyahu has four weeks to form his government, following negotiations with the right wing and religious parties who backed his candidacy.

The incumbent prime minister announced on Tuesday that he would appoint former Likud minister and head of the centrist Kulanu (all of us) party Moshe Kahlon, whose party won 10 seats in the elections, to the post of finance minister.

Kahlon, who led a reform in the mobile cellphones market during his tenure as communications minister in Netanyahu's 2009-2013 government, has campaigned over Israel's socioeconomic hardships and promised to fight to better the economic condition of the Israeli middle class.

Netanyahu and parliament members of the religious United Torah Judaism party agreed on principle that the party will receive both the health ministry portfolio and the chairing the Knesset's (parliament) Finance Committee, the Globes financial daily reported Wednesday.

It also appears that the leader of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas will receive the position of Interior Ministry, the channel 2 news reported.

Israel Beytenu and the Jewish Home demand high-profile portfolios like the defense ministry and the foreign ministry, which Likud members reportedly want to keep within the ranks of the party.

The Channel 2 news reported Netanyahu would try to keep top portfolios for members of his Likud party, including the Defense Ministry which he designates to outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya' alon.

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