Last updated: 4 March, 2013

New Israel coalition formed in days ahead, says Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he was days away from forging a “strong and stable” coalition, but quipped to a US group that his nation’s parliamentary democracy was not worthy of emulation.

Netanyahu has struggled to stitch together a working coalition after reportedly abandoning his efforts to form partnerships with the ultra-orthodox parties, his traditional allies.

On Saturday he was given two more weeks to form a new government, four weeks after initially being tasked to do so by President Shimon Peres.

“But despite the difficulties, I intend to form a strong and stable government in the days ahead,” he said via satellite from Israel to thousands of delegates at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington.

Netanyahu has appeared in person at AIPAC in the past, but sought to pin his own absence this year on the notoriously fractious politics of the Jewish state — and he came off sounding exasperated by the process.

“Unfortunately I had to stay in Israel to do something a lot more enjoyable: putting together a coalition government. What fun!” Netanyahu said, his sarcasm drawing loud laughter from the AIPAC crowd.

He then took good-humored aim at Israel’s status as the longstanding democracy in the Middle East.

“If I can offer a free piece of advice: Don’t adopt Israel’s system of government,” he said.

“Believe me, it’s a lot easier to find common ground between two parties than it is to find common ground among 10 parties,” he said, referring to the Democrats and Republicans in the United States, whose members have been locked in bitter partisanship in recent years.

“You think you have difficulty working out your politics? Believe me, this is harder.”

Netanyahu is expected to stitch together a coalition that will draw in the centrist Yesh Atid and nationalist Jewish Home parties, but exclude ultra-Orthodox groups, after the religious parties rebuffed his offer of concessions on the military draft, media reported on Monday.

If he ultimately fails to meet the deadline, another member of parliament will be given the responsibility of putting together a coalition.

Netanyahu sounded a note of assurance that he would manage to form a government, saying the first thing that it will have “the privilege of doing, is to warmly welcome President Obama” on his first visit to Israel as US commander in chief.

The White House dismissed suggestions that the Obama trip might be delayed due to the political turbulence in Israel, with spokesman Jay Carney saying there were “no scheduling changes to announce” and that the president was “looking forward very much to his trip to Israel and the region.”