Netanyahu says he needs more time to form new government

Netanyahu says he needs more time to form new government

Citing Passover holiday season and April’s Gaza fighting, PM calls 14-day extension to coalition talks ‘accepted practice’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would ask President Reuven Rivlin for more time to form a new coalition government, citing recent holidays and the Gaza flareup.

Netanyahu’s Likud won 35 seats in the April 9 general election, with most lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament recommending that he form the next governing coalition.

On April 17 Rivlin formally tasked him with the mission, which by law needs to be completed within 28 days — although a 14-day extension is traditionally automatically granted upon request.

“As in past instances of forming a government, I intend to ask for an extension from the president,” Netanyahu said in his opening remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting.

“Such an extension is not only accepted practice but also necessary due to scheduling problems,” he said, citing a busy holiday season, including Passover and Independence Day, as well as the Gaza violence.

President Reuven Rivlin (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the president’s residence in Jerusalem on April 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

On May 4, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip, prompting the army to strike dozens of targets inside the blockaded coastal enclave in response.

Four Israeli civilians and 29 Palestinians, including at least 11 of the terror groups’ fighters, were killed in the two-day flareup, which ended on Monday in a tentative truce.

Netanyahu has been conducting low-intensity meetings with heads of the parties expected to join his coalition.

It is expected to include the 16 members of the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties, Avigdor Liberman’s nationalistic, Russian-speaking Yisrael Beytenu, and the center-right Kulanu.

Netanyahu’s lawyers were meanwhile negotiating with the Justice Ministry about when the premier’s pre-trial hearings would take place. The attorney general announced in February his intention to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing.

Netanyahu is not required to resign if indicted, only if convicted with all appeals exhausted.

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