President Chaim Herzog said Monday he has given Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir another three weeks to try to form Israel's next government, but he criticized the lengthy coalition-building process.
Shamir, leader of the right-wing Likud Party, asked Herzog for the extension. On Nov. 14, Herzog picked Shamir over Labor Party leader Shimon Peres to try to negotiate the formation of Israel's 23rd government.Herzog said he "agreed to grant (Shamir) an extension of 21 days" at Shamir's request to try to "complete the task" of finding enough support to form the next government.
Elections on Nov. 1 failed to give Likud or Labor a majority in parliament, the Knesset. But with the expected support of religious and right-wing parties, Herzog decided Shamir had a better chance of forming a government.
During the first three weeks of negotiations, Labor and Likud wooed the religious parties, which made a surprise showing in the elections and captured 18 pivotal seats. In exchange for their support, the religious factions asked Israel's two major parties to help them redefine who is a Jew under automatic citizenship laws.
North American Jews sent an array of delegations to Israel to express their worry over the new political power of the religious factions. The American groups urged Israeli leaders to resist ultra-Orthodox pressure to amend the Law of Return in a way that would refuse automatic Israeli citizenship to Jewish converts whose conversions failed to adhere to strict Orthodox religious law.
The majority of North American Jews are part of the Reform and Conservative movements, and they view the religious parties' proposal as an attack on their religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, the first Jewish civilian convicted in an Arab's death since the Palestinian uprising began was sentenced to three years in prison for fatally shooting a shepherd while guarding a West Bank settlement.
At Sunday's sentencing, District Court Judge Zvi Cohen also ordered Israel Zeev, a 38-year-old American-born immigrant, to pay the family of the dead Arab about $17,500 in compensation, the maximum amount allowed by Israeli law.