Netanyahu set to get formal nod to remain as Israeli prime minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife, Sara, during an election victory celebration in Jerusalem, Israel, on Tuesday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife, Sara, during an election victory celebration in Jerusalem, Israel, on Tuesday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JERUSALEM • Mr Benjamin Netanyahu was set to be formally given the nod yesterday for a fifth term as Israeli prime minister, but his potential indictment for corruption will hang over tough coalition negotiations in the days ahead.

Despite a strong challenge from a centrist alliance in last week's elections, Mr Netanyahu emerged victorious with the help of allied right-wing parties that gave him enough support to form a governing coalition.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who must choose which Parliament member should form the next government, held consultations with political parties this week on their recommendations.

Mr Netanyahu received the support of 65 of 120 Parliament members to remain prime minister, and Mr Rivlin was expected to announce his selection last night.

Mr Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government with a possible extension of a further two weeks.

The results from the April 9 election put Mr Netanyahu on course to become Israel's longest-serving prime minister later this year, surpassing founding father David Ben-Gurion, but numerous risks lie ahead.

The 69-year-old's first task will be to reconcile divergent demands from his likely coalition partners.

Mr Netanyahu's outgoing government was seen as the most right-wing in Israel's history, and the next is expected to be similar if not further to the right.

The biggest danger hanging over Mr Netanyahu is his potential indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The Attorney-General has announced his intention to indict Mr Netanyahu pending an upcoming hearing. He would be the first sitting prime minister to be indicted.

In a speech on Tuesday night, Mr Netanyahu pledged to be "everyone's prime minister", but took shots at journalists asking if he will appoint an ally as justice minister who will seek changes to the supreme court long sought by the right.

Another major stumbling block will be a contentious Bill that would seek to force ultra-Orthodox religious students to serve in the military like their secular counterparts.

Former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman is conditioning his inclusion in the government on the law being passed.

Mr Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party's five seats will be crucial to Mr Netanyahu's majority.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2019, with the headline 'Netanyahu set to get formal nod to remain as Israeli prime minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe