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Netanyahu Forms Ruling Coalition Less Than 2 Hours Before Deadline

Forty-two days after his Likud party won a plurality of seats in Israel’s Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late Wednesday that he had scraped together a government with rival parties.

The announcement came about an hour and a half before the midnight deadline for the formation of a government. The coalition will consist of 61 Knesset members— giving Netanyahu a tiny one-seat margin over the opposition. (RELATED: Netanyahu Pulls Through In Final Election Count)

The right-wing nationalist Jewish Home party received control of the Justice Ministry as part of the deal. Bennett’s party received eight seats in the election, and will help boost Likud from its initial 30-seat win. Amid negotiations between the two parties, a Likud official told Haaretz that Bennett’s campaign for Justice Minister was a “crusade of extortion.”

Likud had already attracted the support of religious Jewish parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, as well as the centrist party Kulanu. Jewish Home’s addition to the bloc will put it just over the halfway point for control of the Knesset. (RELATED: On Election Day, Israeli Politicians Continue To Surprise)

But the horse-trading also lost Netanyahu some of his former allies. Avigdor Lieberman, the incumbent foreign minister and head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, announced Monday that he would not participate in a Netanyahu-led coalition. His party had been a key part of Likud’s previous cabinet.

The initial 61-seat coalition may not last beyond a few weeks. Netanyahu, together with some of his coalition partners, seems eager to form a so-called “unity government,” which would include his arch-rivals in the runner-up Zionist Union faction. Netanyahu’s prior premiership was also part of a unity government, which lasted less than two years before collapsing after the Zionist Union’s current leaders resigned.

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