Page last updated at 13:36 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Israeli right joins coalition bid

Party leaders at swearing in of Israeli parliament (23/02/09)
Israel's polling system means many parties are elected and serve in coalitions

Israel's Likud party has met parties of the far right and religious right for talks on forming the next government.

Earlier talks with Likud's centrist rivals could not agree on terms, though Likud leader and one-time PM Benjamin Netanyahu is sill hopeful of a deal.

The centrist Kadima party won one more seat than Likud in the 10 February poll but Likud was asked to form a coalition as it had more support from other MPs.

The coalition makeup is seen as crucial in securing Palestinian-Israeli peace.

Analysts say a government of right-wingers and Orthodox Jews who champion settlement-building and oppose land-for-peace deals might jeopardise prospects for peace.

A more moderate-looking government which included Kadima and the centre-left Labour party might find more favour with Israel's international backers, they say.

Rule over others

President Shimon Peres urged MPs at their swearing-in ceremony to conclude a peace deal with the Palestinians by the end of this parliamentary term.

"Negotiations with the Palestinians need to continue until an accord will be found," Mr Peres told parliament on Tuesday evening.

"We don't want to rule over another people, and we don't want another people to rule over us."

Mr Netanyahu was due to hold formal negotiations at an afternoon meeting with the Yisrael Beiteinu party of ultra-nationalist MP Avigdor Lieberman, who favours redrawing Israel's borders to eject non-Jewish Israelis and annex occupied territory settled by Jews.

The Likud leader is then scheduled to meet representatives of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the pro-settler groups Jewish Home and National Union.

Mr Netanyahu became prime minister in 1996, but his government collapsed in 1999 when far-right parties defected owing to disagreements over peace deals he signed with the Palestinians.

Rival parties

Kadima won 28 seats to Likud's 27 in the election for Israel's 120-member parliament, which is chosen through proportional representation.

Yisrael Beiteinu won 15 seats, an unprecedented number for a far-right party, knocking Labour into an embarrassing fourth place.

Mr Netanyahu first approached Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to join him in a broad coalition government.

She refuses, demanding guarantees that a Likud-led government would engage in peace talks with the Palestinians with the aim of achieving a Palestinian state.

The two leaders met on Sunday, two days after Mr Peres asked Mr Netanyahu to form the government instead of poll leader Ms Livni.

Further Likud-Kadima talks are expected later in the week.

Israel election results graphic

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