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September 18, 2019 12:18 pm

Netanyahu Seeking United Right-Religious Bloc for Coalition Talks

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Laborers work on hanging up a Likud election campaign banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his party candidates, in Jerusalem, March 28, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad / File.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday with delegations from all the right-wing and religious parties to discuss forming a single 55-seat bloc that Netanyahu will represent in coalition negotiations following Tuesday’s inconclusive elections.

The Israeli news site Walla reported that the bloc would be temporary, and would be intended to give Netanyahu maximum leverage in convincing President Reuven Rivlin to give him the first chance to attempt to form a government.

With almost all votes counted, it became clear on Wednesday that Netanyahu’s Likud and its rival centrist Blue and White party had fought each other to a standstill, with neither side able to reach the 61 seats required to establish a majority government.

Blue and White appeared to lead by a single seat, with 32 mandates to the Likud’s 31. The center-left and Arab bloc won 56 seats and the right-religious bloc 55.

Avigdor Lieberman’s secular-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu appears to hold the balance of power with its nine seats and has urged the immediate formation of a unity government. Notably, Lieberman is not included in Netanyahu’s proposed right-religious bloc.

Following April’s elections, Lieberman forced new elections by refusing to join Netanyahu’s coalition after his demands for religious reforms were rejected.

Walla cited a source in one of the right-wing parties as saying that a united right-religious bloc opposed to a unity government would lead to a situation in which the right would have a better chance of forming the next government.

Netanyahu held a Likud faction meeting later on Wednesday.

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