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Israel: Netanyahu requests extension to form government

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Netanyahu failed to form a government in Israel last year. Now he tries again – and asks for more time. The deadline would end on Sunday.

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Around five weeks after the parliamentary elections in Israel, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has applied for an extension of his mandate to form a government. A spokesman for his Likud party announced on Thursday evening that Netanyahu had submitted a request to Israeli President Izchak Herzog for a further two weeks. Otherwise, his mandate would expire on Sunday.

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The reason given was open questions in the coalition negotiations. In addition to Netanyahu’s right-wing conservative Likud party, the right-wing extremist Religious-Zionist Alliance and two strictly religious parties are to be involved in the government. The camp won 64 out of 120 seats in the Knesset in the November 1 election. In principle, Netanyahu has already reached an agreement with his partners. However, a joint coalition agreement is still pending.

Netanyahu failed to form a government last year. However, it is not uncommon in Israel to extend the time originally scheduled for four weeks.

The looming new government is expected to push through sweeping changes – which could also play into Netanyahu’s hands in his ongoing corruption trial. Experts have already warned of the weakening of democracy in the country.

Before the new government is sworn in, a change in the law is to be passed that will enable the leader of the strictly religious Schas party, Arie Deri, to become interior minister despite being convicted of tax offenses. Israeli media reported that this was one of the reasons for the request for an extension of the mandate. Other ministerial posts are also to be filled with controversial politicians.

If Netanyahu succeeds in forming a coalition after a year and a half in the opposition, it would be his second comeback to the post of head of government. It was the fifth election in Israel in three and a half years.

Source: Stern

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