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Netanyahu officially named next Israeli PM

It may take his Likud party weeks of negotiations to form ruling coalition
Netanyahu is set to break record of longest-ever serving prime minister of Israel (AFP)

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday officially asked Benjamin Netanyahu to reaccept his seat as Israel's prime minister and begin building a coalition government, following last week's elections.

In a televised ceremony, Rivlin told Netanyahu that after consulting all the parties elected to the incoming 120-seat parliament, "65 MKs recommended you", meaning Netanyahu surpassed the 61- seat majority needed to become premier.

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Now Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party will begin forming a ruling coalition, which may require weeks of negotiations.

Netanyahu's biggest rival during last week's election was the Blue and White party headed by Benny Gantz. As polls closed, both Gantz and Netanyahu took to Twitter to declare victory in the tight race.

Neither Likud nor the Blue and White party ended up with a ruling majority, but with the backing of other right-wing factions, Netanyahu was in a strong position to form a coalition government.

Blue and White party leaders on Monday ruled out forming a unity government with Likud.

Entering his fourth consecutive term and fifth term in total, Netanyahu is set to break the record of longest-ever serving prime minister of Israel.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had announced in February that he intends to charge the prime minister in three corruption cases, including bribery and fraud charges.

Netanyahu has denied the charges, and under Israeli law, is under no legal obligation to resign if he is indicted.

Looking forward

Earlier this month, Netanyahu pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he were to win another term in office.

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"I will apply [Israeli] sovereignty, but I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements, because each settlement is Israeli and I will not hand it over to Palestinian sovereignty," he said in an interview on Channel 12 television.

During the interview, he also declared that a Palestinian state "will endanger our existence", seeming to eliminate any possibility of a two-state solution.

Still, Israel's UN ambassador said on Wednesday that Netanyahu is unlikely to follow up on his election pledge to annex settlements before a US peace plan is released.

"I don't think that we will take any action before the plan is published," Ambassador Danny Danon told reporters about the campaign pledge.

Also on Wednesday, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said the peace plan dubbed by US President Donald Trump's administration as "The Deal of the Century" is set to be unveiled sometime after June.

"We will wait," Danon added. "We will see the plan. We will engage and I don't know where it will lead us," he said.