Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began talks on Thursday to form a new Israeli government, which will have to mend shattered ties with key ally Washington, while tackling pressing social and security issues.
After a bitterly fought campaign that exposed deep splits within Israeli society and a damaging rift with Washington, Netanyahu knuckled down to the task of building a coalition likely to be dominated by right-wing and religious parties.
By mid-morning, disputes were already emerging, an indicator of likely problems in piecing together an operational government.
The coalition will have to hit the ground running in order to shore up shattered ties with the administration of US President Barack Obama and address divisions at home.
It will also have to handle an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, vehemently opposed by Netanyahu, as well as the imminent threat of Palestinian legal action at the International Criminal Court.
And pressure against West Bank settlement resurfaced, with outgoing UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry calling for the new government to "freeze" it in order to restore
"Illegal settlement activity cannot be reconciled with the objective of a negotiated two-state solution and may kill the very possibility of reaching peace", said Serry, who is stepping down after seven years.
As Netanyahu formally accepted Wednesday the task of building a government, he pledged Israel would hold out a "hand of peace" to the Palestinians and make sure to patch up US ties, while continuing to fight the Iran deal.
But after a dirty campaign of inflammatory slogans and statements, people both at home and abroad will be looking for actions not words.
Netanyahu himself was at the centre of most of the controversy after he ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state if reelected, pledged to build more settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem and played the race card at the expense of Israel's Arab minority.