President Shimon Peres announced Friday he has decided to task Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu with forming the next government.
"Most of the factions have expressed their desire to see a broad government being established, and I asked Mr. Netanyahu that this wish will be reflected in the makeup of the government," Peres said at a press conference in his official residence.
"The people of Israel need governmental stability in order to deal with the challenges that lie ahead," the president added.
Netanyahu and Peres during their meeting Friday morning (Photo: Moshe Millner, GPO)
In his speech, Netanyahu referred to the challenges facing Israel: "Iran is developing nuclear weapons and poses the greatest threat to our existence since the War of Independence. Iran's terror wings surround us from the north and south"
The Likud leader called on members of all factions, "those who recommended and those who didn't," to put all the disagreements aside and focus on the good of the state.
Netanyahu urged Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak to "join hands" with him, and said that he wished to meet with the two first, for the sake of national unity.
Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni called Netanyahu later Friday and told him she was not opposed to a meeting with him. They are scheduled to meet Sunday.
Livni rejects notion of unity government
Earlier, President Peres met separately with Netanyahu and Livni after formal consultations between the president and the faction representatives have ended.
Peres urged both leaders to form a broad national unity government that will include both Likud and Kadima.
Netanyahu, who was the first to meet Peres, told the president that he understood the need for a unity government. "Immediately after you task me with forming the coalition, I will invite Kadima for negotiations," said the Likud leader.
"I'm willing to go far in order to establish such a government," he stated.
Shortly after their meeting concluded, Livni arrived at the president's residence in Jerusalem. After the meeting she said: "Whoever is willing to forsake all his values in order to sit in the coalition is unworthy to sit in that spot. There is a coalition here based on a lack of political vision, a coalition that will not allow me to exercise the way of Kadima.
"A broad coalition has no value if it does not lead the way. I cannot be a cover for a lack of way," added Livni.
Livni's associates stressed that unless Netanyahu agrees to rotation, "there's nothing to talk about."
With the culmination of the talks with Peres Thursday evening, the score stood markedly in Netanyahu's favor with 65 endorsements (from the Likud, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the National Union and Habayit Hayehudi).
Meanwhile Livni garnered the support of the 28 members of her own party. Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties chose not to recommend any candidate to Peres.
Attila Somfalvi and Ronen Medzini contributed to the report