President Rivlin grants Netanyahu more time to negotiate new government
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President Rivlin grants Netanyahu more time to negotiate new government

PM given an extra 14 days to cobble together a coalition after asking for an extension, citing Passover and recent Gaza fighting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left with President Reuven Rivlin, right, during a meeting to discuss extending the period of time to form a new coalition government, at the president's residence in Jerusalem, May 13, 2019. (Haim Zach (GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left with President Reuven Rivlin, right, during a meeting to discuss extending the period of time to form a new coalition government, at the president's residence in Jerusalem, May 13, 2019. (Haim Zach (GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday extended by two weeks the deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new governing coalition, after Netanyahu requested the extra time while he continues to hold talks with potential partners.

Netanyahu met with Rivlin at the president’s official residence in Jerusalem.

The prime minister said Sunday he would ask Rivlin for more time, citing recent holidays and a flareup in fighting with the Gaza Strip last week.

Under Israel’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws, an election winner has 28 days to form a government but the president can grant an extension of up to 14 days.

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.

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

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

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.

Media reports Monday said that Netanyahu’s Likud party is demanding the coalition agreement include commitments from partners to back a law that would enable the Knesset to override the High Court on administrative and legislative matters, opening the way for the future government to pass legislation granting Netanyahu immunity from prosecution.

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