New Israeli govt faces tough test to revive peace process

Israel`s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to stitch together a coalition just in time to prevent fresh polls.

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2013, 19:25 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israel`s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to stitch together a coalition just in time to prevent fresh polls but dependence on hardline allies to keep the government afloat raises doubts over the revival of stalled peace process with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu officially informed President Shimon Peres yesterday evening that he had succeeded in forming a four-party coalition and today started allotting ministerial portfolios to legislators from his own party tapping former General and Chief of Staff Moshe Yalon, as the next Defence Minister.

The 63-year-old Israeli Premier`s meeting with Peres at the President`s Residence in Jerusalem came after he signed coalition agreements with Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi (The Jewish Home) parties on Friday.

The new government, consisting of 68 members from Likud Beytenu, Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni`s Hatnua party is set to be sworn in at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) tomorrow.

Elected for a third term in the January 22 polls which saw his Likud party`s popularity plummeting, the hawkish Israeli leader is set to become the second longest serving Prime Minister in the Jewish state`s history, next only to the first Premier, David Ben-Gurion.

"As you know, I was able to form a government," Netanyahu told Peres at the meeting.

"You gave me the task and I performed it. We stand before a decisive year for security, economics and efforts to advance peace, and in addition, the Israeli citizens` desire for change," he added.

"In this government their is cooperation, and I believe we can bring good news in all fields to all of Israel`s citizens. That is my task, and I know it is also what you pray for," the Premier emphasised in his meeting with the Israeli President.

Peres said that he had been "a witness to the difficult labour pains of the government-forming process", while congratulating Netanyahu for completing the task of forming a coalition before yesterday`s deadline.

Peres had granted Netanyahu a two-week extension to complete the formation of a government earlier this month, amid contentious negotiations with Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid parties which finally yielded agreements on Friday.

Political analysts here believe that the parties included in the coalition are bound be at loggerheads on the issue of peace talks with the Palestinians and the deadlock is bound to continue.

Palestinians have demanded a total freeze on settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem for talks to re-start and the inclusion of Bayit Yehudi, a pro-settler party with strong support in the West Bank, would mean that it would be very difficult for the new government to change its position on the issue.

On the other hand, Livni`s Hatnua party, which joined the coalition with the sole stated objective of moving forward with peace talks with the Palestinians, is bound to face hostility within the coalition and find any progress difficult to manage.