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Thursday, July 24, 2014

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Netanyahu’s agenda

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Last Thursday, the Central Elections Committee delivered the official results of the recent Israeli election to President Shimon Peres. Two days later, at the conclusion of Shabbat, after consulting with all the parties that won seats in the 19th Knesset, Peres formally asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government.  

Under Israeli law, Netanyahu has 28 days from last Saturday night to assemble a coalition. If he fails to do so within the allotted time, the president may grant him a further 14 days to get it done.

Although our sages warned that since the destruction of the Second Temple, predictions are now the realm of fools and toddlers, it is probably safe to say that it is unlikely that Netanyahu will need the extension. He received the endorsement of six parties controlling 82 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.

But Netanyahu wants his new government to include members from more than those six parties. According to the Times of Israel, at the ceremony with President Peres Saturday night, he seeks to lead “the widest possible national unity government” and urged the party leaders who did not recommend him as prime minister to join him.

Netanyahu’s remarks to the president deftly responded to the policy preferences urged by the Israeli electorate. His tone was conciliatory to political opponents and to Palestinian leaders.  

He promised to tackle the pressing domestic issues ”without tearing our people apart.” In other words, his approach will be gradual rather than abrupt regarding such matters as haredi participation in the army, reducing the cost of living and introducing electoral reform. 

He appealed directly to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He pleaded with him “to come back to the negotiating table,” saying that every day that passes without negotiations is a day wasted.

On matters of security, which Netanyahu characterized as his highest priority, he was urgent and firm. The security focus would be twofold: Iran and the instability unfolding throughout the region.

The boisterously campaigned but peacefully conducted election in Israel – like the 18 preceding ones – is the most eloquent refutation to the apartheid lie spread by haters of the Jewish state.

All Israeli citizens who are eligible voters had the right to cast ballots. Exactly 67.79 per cent did. Nearly 60 per cent of all eligible Arab Israelis did so, too. The three Arab parties won 9.3 per cent of the votes cast, translating to 11 members in the 19th Knesset.

We hope and pray the new Knesset will be a legislature of mutual respect and dignity and that the next Israeli government – yet to be formed – will be one of wisdom, courage and compassion.

And we hope no day in the search for peace will be wasted.

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