Benjamin Netanyahu has put himself at the helm of a hardline Israeli government that appears to be on a collision course with the US and other key allies by forming a new coalition.
The prime minister reached a deal with the nationalist Jewish Home party shortly before a midnight deadline, clinching a slim parliamentary majority and averting an embarrassing scenario that would have forced him from office.
But with a government dominated by hardliners who support increased West Bank settlement building and oppose peace moves with the Palestinians, he could have a tough time rallying international support.
Controlling just 61 of 120 parliamentary seats, the narrow coalition could also struggle to press forward with a domestic agenda.
After Netanyahu’s Likud Party won elections on March 17 with 30 seats, it seemed he would have a relatively easy time forming a coalition and serving a fourth term as prime minister. But the six-week negotiating process, which expired at midnight, turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated as rival coalition partners and members of Likud jockeyed for influential ministries.
“I am sure that nobody is surprised that the negotiations continued with all the factions and nobody is surprised it ended at the time it did,” Netanyahu said.
He vowed to install “a strong and stable government for the people of Israel” by next week, yet also hinted he would court additional partners in the near future.
“Sixty-one is a good number, and 61-plus is an even better number,” he said. “But it starts at 61 and we will begin. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The talks stalled this week when foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, a long-time political partner of Netanyahu, unexpectedly stepped down and announced his secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party was joining the opposition.
That left Netanyahu dependent on Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, a former aide with whom he has a rocky relationship. With Mr Bennett driving a hard bargain, the talks stretched throughout the day and well into the night before Mr Netanyahu called President Reuven Rivlin, as required by law, to announce the deal.
Analysts do not expect the new government to last long or accomplish much.
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