Netanyahu gets Rivlin's mandate to form government

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been granted the go ahead by President Reuven Rivlin to form a new coalition government, recognizing his surprising victory in the last week's election.

Rivlin yesterday handed him the task of forming the next government hours after he received the official election results showing Netanyahu's Likud with 30 Knesset seats to lead all parties. The Isreali President, however, chided Netanyahu for his controversial remarks about Arab-Israeli voters before tasking him to form the next government.

"The elections are the only referendum in our democracy... shame on us if we view the fulfillment of the democratic duty of voting as a curse or something that must be warned against," he said. "Those afraid of ballots will end up getting stones thrown in the streets," he warned.

"From every direction, things were said that ought not to have been said in a Jewish and democratic state. Fanning the flames serves no one. The fire does not only heat, it threatens to engulf in flames. Today is the time to begin to heal these wounds," the Israeli President said.

Netanyahu during his election campaign had said he would not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state on his watch and warned them that Arab voters were heading to the polls "in droves." His acrimonious electioneering had strained ties with the United States and drew accusations of racism from the country's Arab minority.

Netanyahu, however, tried to repair the damage by declaring himself the Prime Minister of all Israeli citizens. "I see myself as the Prime Minister of each and every one of you, those who elected me and those who did not. I will act to mend the rifts which have opened up between different segments of society during the election," Netanyahu said.

"I must continue on this path in the next government that is formed - a Jewish and democratic country that gives full equal rights to all of its citizens regardless of religious, race or gender. So it has always been and so it always will be," Netanyahu said.

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