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Netanyahu to seek 14-day extension to form coalition

PM will meet with president on Monday to request more time, amid difficulties with Jewish Home, Yisrael Beytenu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as he is formally given the task to form the next government, at the president's residence in Jerusalem on March 25, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as he is formally given the task to form the next government, at the president's residence in Jerusalem on March 25, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Reuven Rivlin Monday at the President’s Residence to request an extension in forming the government, the President’s Residence announced Sunday.

According to Israeli Basic Law, the prime minister has just 28 days to form a coalition, but the president can extend that by an additional 14 days.

Members of Likud’s coalition negotiating team were set to hold marathon talks Sunday with representatives of the Shas, United Torah Judaism and Kulanu parties, in an effort to reach a coalition agreement with them and initial it by Tuesday.

Likud negotiators have been facing difficulties in talks with the Yisrael Beytenu and Jewish Home parties, whose representatives they are slated to meet on Monday. Those talks are reportedly the reason behind Netanyahu’s request for an extension from the president.

Netanyahu met on Friday with Avigdor Liberman and Naftali Bennett, the leaders of Yisrael Beytenu and Jewish Home, respectively .

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Liberman said that his party would insist that legislative reforms passed by the previous Knesset on the conversion process and on the drafting of yeshiva students to the army would remain unchanged, Haaretz reported.

Jewish Home representatives would not discuss their chairman’s meeting with Netanyahu, though sources said that some progress had been made.

Shas is insisting that one of its Knesset members, Yitzhak Vaknin, be made a deputy Knesset speaker – a position that he has held at times over the past two years – despite the low number of seats the party won in the recent Knesset elections. Likud has reportedly offered a compromise in the form of a rotation of that position with a member of United Torah Judaism, the report said.

Meanwhile, Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog maintained that he intends to lead the opposition, not join a unity government.

“A government of 67 MKs is about to be established,” he told journalist Ben Caspit at a cultural event in Tel Aviv on Saturday. “I said right after the elections that we would be going to the opposition. That’s not a default choice; it’s a preference.”

Herzog added that he and Netanyahu had spoken three times since the elections, but never one-on-one, referring to a report on Channel 1 that he had met secretly with Netanyahu.

Still, Herzog said, he had not ruled out the possibility of joining a unity government.

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