JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Shimon Peres that he formed a government coalition.
The leaders met Saturday night at the president’s residence in Jerusalem, one day after Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett — leaders of the Yesh Atid and Jewish Home parties, respectively — signed a contract with Netanyahu on Friday, ending negotiations that had been under way since the Jan. 22 election.
The coalition will include 68 of the Knesset’s 120 parliamentarians. The new government is expected to be sworn in on Sunday.
Yesh Atid and Jewish Home join the Likud-Beiteinu faction led by Netanyahu. Hatnua, chaired by Tzipi Livni, also is on board.
"We are standing before a decisive year in terms of security, economy and in efforts to progress peace," Netanyahu told Peres. "The citizens of Israel wanted change. This government shows cooperation, and I believe that we will be able to bring news in all these fields to all the citizens of Israel. That is my mission and I know that it is your prayer."
Netanyahu on Sunday named former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon as defense minister. The prime minister was scheduled to meet Sunday with other Likud lawmakers to assign ministerial positions and committee chairmanships.
A statement issued Saturday by the White House congratulated Netanyahu on forming a new government in advance of President Obama’s visit on March 20.
"President Obama looks forward to working closely with the Prime Minister and the new government to address the many challenges we face and advance our shared interest in peace and security," the statement said. "The United States places a high value on its deep and enduring bonds with Israel and the Israeli people. The President looks forward to further strengthening those bonds when he travels to Israel next week to meet with Israeli officials and to speak directly with the Israeli people."