JERUSALEM Israeli President Shimon Peres began talks with political parties on Wednesday over who should form a new government and appears certain to ask incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assemble it.
The formal consultation procedure to nominate a lawmaker to form a government, the president's only important executive power, began after Peres was presented with the official results from last week's parliamentary election.
Peres will meet representatives from all 12 parties elected to the Knesset according to size in descending order, and hopes to complete the formalities within days.
He began the process by meeting representatives of Netanyahu's 31-seat Likud-Beitenu party, the biggest faction in the Knesset, and Yesh Atid, a new party led by political novice Yair Lapid which won 19 seats.
Informal talks between groups began almost immediately after the election result became clear last week. Netanyahu is expected to partner Lapid's centrist party and the 12-seat far-right Jewish Home or "Bayit Yehudi" faction. The three parties would control 62 out of 120 seats in parliament.
Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties are also expected to back Netanyahu and pundits predict he should be able to recruit well over 70 lawmakers into his coalition.
Education Minister Gideon Saar, who led the Likud-Beitenu delegation, said they told Peres he should nominate Netanyahu.
"We recommended to the president to ask that (Netanyahu) form the government," he said after meeting with Peres.
Lapid, who headed his party's representation, also backed Netanyahu to build the coalition.
"Our manifesto says that the person who heads the biggest party should be the one to form the government ... and that is what I and three new Knesset members who came with me have just recommended to the president," Lapid said.
Peres' nominee will have an initial 28 days to form a coalition and could seek a 14-day extension if needed. Coalition building in Israel often involves detailed negotiations.
(Editing by Alison Williams)