JERUSALEM – In a widely anticipated move, Israeli President Shimon Peres has chosen Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud Party to form Israel’s next government.
Netanyahu, a former prime minister, received Peres’ decision on Friday. He now has six weeks to cobble together a governing coalition, which may or may not include the centrist Kadima Party, which actually won more seats than Likud in the recent election.
Israeli political pollster Mitchell Barak, who predicted earlier this week that Netanyahu was liklier to be chosen than Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, told The Chronicle he expects a new government to be in place by Passover.
Kadima won 28 seats in the election to Likud’s 27. But Likud is in a better position to form a coalition because of gains made by Avigdor Lieberman, head of thde right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, and other conservative parties.
Yisrael Beiteinu is now the third largest party in the Knesset, beating out the left-of-center Labor Party of Ehud Barak.
The Associated Press reported that Kadmia’s Livni emerged from a meeting with Peres this week saying she would not join a hard-line government and was prepared to lead her party into opposition.
“I will not be able to serve as a cover for a lack of direction. I want to lead Israel in a way I believe in, to advance a peace process based on two states for two peoples,” AP reported Livni as saying.
But she may not remain the Kadima leader for long. Barak told The Chronicle that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been using this transition period since his resignation to repair his image with the Israeli public. If he can beat the corruption charges facing him, Barak said, he may try to regain leadership of Kadima.