Israeli President Moshe Katsav formally chose acting Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert on Thursday to form Israel's next government, and Olmert said he would
quickly put together a coalition committed to carrying out his West Bank
Acting Israeli Prime Minister and Kadima Party
leader Ehud Olmert speaks during a party caucus meeting at the Knesset in
Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 5, 2006. Olmert and his Kadima Party held
their first caucus since winning Israeli general elections last week.
During the campaign, Olmert said he planned to pull Israel out of much of the
West Bank, while strengthening its control of major settlement blocs and drawing
the country's final borders by 2010. The withdrawal will be part of the new
government's written program, Olmert said.
"These plans will be the basis of the government's operations," he said. "I
believe this is also known to all the potential partners and there is no doubt
we will act in this way."
Katsav said 78 members of Israel's 120-member parliament recommended that
Olmert be tapped as the next prime minister. Olmert's centrist Kadima Party won
29 seats in last week's parliamentary elections, the most of any party.
"I am honored to announce at this time that I decided to give lawmaker Ehud
Olmert the responsibility of forming the government," Katsav said at a joint
news conference with Olmert.
Olmert, who has served as acting prime minister since Ariel Sharon suffered a
stroke Jan. 4, has nearly a month to try to put together a governing coalition
of at least 61 lawmakers. If he fails, he can ask for a two-week extension.
"I ask that you all be patient," Olmert said, "but I promise we will try to
do this as quickly as possible."
He said he would try to include a cross-section of parties from across
Israel's political spectrum in his government. "It is not easy to form a
coalition that is stable, that enjoys a secure majority that can last a full
term," he said.
Katsav, Israel's ceremonial president, met in recent days with
representatives of all the parties in parliament. No one recommended another
candidate for prime minister, he said.
Katsav said that he wanted Olmert to form a broad