JERUSALEM — Benjamin Netanyahu has been forced to ask for more time to form Israel’s next government amid an increasingly hostile row with the parties he is expected to include in his coalition.
Netanyahu was granted an extra fortnight to establish an administration on Saturday by President Shimon Peres, after missing the initial one month deadline which passed yesterday. Speaking at the Presidential residence in Jerusalem, he used the opportunity to launch a broadside at Yair Lapid, the Yesh Atid leader who has said that he will not join a government that includes Israel’s orthodox parties.
“The main reason that I have not finished forming a government is because there is a boycott of a sector in Israel, and this is unacceptable from my perspective,” the Prime Minister-elect said.
Lapid, who was the surprise of the election in January, winning 19 seats in the 120-member Knesset, campaigned on several social issues including removing a number of benefits for the orthodox Jews, many of whom are not compelled to complete military service like other Israelis. Since the vote Lapid, a former journalist and talk show host, has refused to countenance serving in a government that includes the Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ).
According to senior officials Netanyahu was eager to form the broadest possible coalition allowing individual parties to disagree with certain policies without bringing down the government. It is believed that his plan was to include the orthodox parties alongside Yesh Atid, despite its campaign.