Netanyahu gets Rivlin's mandate to form government

  • PTI, Jerusalem
  • Updated: Mar 26, 2015 10:30 IST

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been granted the go ahead by President Reuven Rivlin to form a new coalition government, recognizing his surprising victory in the last week's election.

Rivlin on Wednesday handed him the task of forming the next government hours after he received the official election results showing Netanyahu's Likud with 30 Knesset seats to lead all parties.

The Isreali President, however, chided Netanyahu for his controversial remarks about Arab-Israeli voters before tasking him to form the next government.

"The elections are the only referendum in our democracy... shame on us if we view the fulfillment of the democratic duty of voting as a curse or something that must be warned against," he said.

"Those afraid of ballots will end up getting stones thrown in the streets," he warned.

"From every direction, things were said that ought not to have been said in a Jewish and democratic state. Fanning the flames serves no one.

The fire does not only heat, it threatens to engulf in flames. Today is the time to begin to heal these wounds," the Israeli President said.

Netanyahu during his election campaign had said he would not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state on his watch and warned them that Arab voters were heading to the polls "in droves." His acrimonious electioneering had strained ties with the United States and drew accusations of racism from the country's Arab minority.

Netanyahu, however, tried to repair the damage by declaring himself the Prime Minister of all Israeli citizens.

"I see myself as the Prime Minister of each and every one of you, those who elected me and those who did not. I will act to mend the rifts which have opened up between different segments of society during the election," Netanyahu said.

"I must continue on this path in the next government that is formed - a Jewish and democratic country that gives full equal rights to all of its citizens regardless of religious, race or gender. So it has always been and so it always will be," Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader also extended his hand to the Palestinians but stressed that peace and Israel's survival depends on its strength.

"Our hand is extended in peace to our Palestinian neighbours," Netanyahu said adding "the people of Israel know that real peace, that our entire future, will only be secured if Israel remains strong." Israel can only meet the many challenges it faces in the region if it is strong and united, he said.

He also vowed to continue working to stop the nuclear deal being formulated between world powers and Iran.

"This agreement endangers us, our neighbors and the world," Netanyahu said.

"We see eye to eye with many of our Arab neighbors regarding the danger Iran poses and recognise the benefits this new partnership will yield to the region," he added.

Israel sees Iran's nuclear programme as an existential threat while Tehran maintains that its pursuit is for peaceful purposes. The Israeli Premier's comments comes amid heightened tensions with the US over the Iranian nuclear deal. He also earned fierce White House disapproval on his election remarks.

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