Israel's Netanyahu starts formal coalition talks


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press on Jan. 21, 2013 in Jerusalem.


Lior Mizrahi

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu has formally begun talks to create a broad “national unity” government of rightwing and center parties, reports the Financial Times.

The prime minister's right Likud-Beytenu party narrowly held onto a majority in last month's election and is still the largest party in Israel's legislative branch, the Knesset.

Before Sunday's cabinet session, Netanyahu called on rival parties “to join me in as broad a national unity government as possible that would unite the public at a decisive time in our history”.

Formal talks to form a coalition started on Sunday after President Shimon Peres gave Netanyahu the green light to attempt to form a governing coalition on Saturday night, reports the Times of Israel.

According to the newspaper, the talks will be arranged in order of which party earned the most votes in the last election, starting with Yesh Atid, Jewish Home and Shas meeting the Likud-Beytenu team.

At Saturday's event, Netanyahu spoke about the priorities for Israel's incoming government including expanding peace talks with the Palestinians, reports the Financial Times.

"We have many tasks to deal with, but first of all in the Middle East we must maintain security,” Netanyahu said. “The first task of the government is to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The government will be bound to peace. I call on [Abbas] to return to the negotiating table”.

An aide for Netanyahu, Isaac Molho, announced Sunday morning that he would withdraw from the coalition negotiations and focus instead on serving as the prime minister's envoy for peace talks with the Palestinians, reports Haaretz.

According to Haaretz, this may be a sign that Netanyahu is serious about restarting peace talks, which is one of the basic conditions set by both parties Yesh Atid and Hatnuah for joining a Netanyahu coalition.