Netanyahu Gets Two-Week Extension to Form Coalition Government

(Bloomberg) -- Israelis may have to wait a couple more weeks for Benjamin Netanyahu’s fifth government after President Reuven Rivlin agreed to the prime minister’s request for extra time to hammer out agreements with potential coalition partners.

After elections, the president consults with all parties to see whom they favor as the next prime minister -- usually, the leader of the largest party. Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party and Benny Gantz’s center-left Blue & White bloc both won 35 Knesset seats, but Netanyahu was seen to have the better chance of forming a government after religious and nationalist parties won a total of 65 seats in the 120-member legislature.

Netanyahu has been trying to build a coalition for the past four weeks and was entitled to two more that he received on Monday. If he still can’t form a government at the end of those two weeks, the mantle passes to another party. Past coalition negotiations often went the full six weeks, with parties’ brinksmanship rising as the deadline approaches.

In addition to the usual demands for budgets and ministries, the current negotiations have focused on a proposal to draft religious students into the military, fiercely resisted by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Netanyahu is also said to be discussing proposals that could shield him from prosecution in several long-running corruption probes, or keep his government intact if he’s indicted.

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