After weeks of intense coalition negotiations with rival factions, Likud leader Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu was sworn in today as Israel’s prime minister. The problem stemmed from the fact that on February 10, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni won 28 of the 120 available Knesset seats, edging out Netanyahu’s 27. However, more right-of-center parties won Knesset seats, ultimately making Netanyahu the more likely to successfully assemble a governing coalition of 61 seats or more.
In the weeks since the election, Bibi failed to convince Livni to join his coalition. However, on March 20, Israeli President Shimon Peres granted him an additional 2 week extension to forge a coalition. During this time, Bibi secured 13 additional seats for his government by welcoming Ehud Barak’s left-of-center Labor party.
Bibi’s inclusion of Labor is a tactical advantage. It can help deflect criticism that his is a right-wing government that eschews peace. The addition of Barak will also bolster Bibi’s defense team. Barak, a highly decorated IDF veteran, is prepared to take steps to neutralize the threat of Iran to Israel.