Sharon’s first major challenge is to cobble together a governing coalition in the Knesset. Currently, Likud holds only 19 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. By law, Sharon has 45 days from the time
the results are official (March 30) to form a coalition. An equally pressing
deadline is March 31, the date under Israeli law that the Government must pass
its budget. If the Knesset fails to pass three readings of the budget by that
date, the Knesset must dissolve, triggering new elections for both Prime
Minister and Knesset.
National Unity Government:
Throughout his campaign, Sharon pledged that upon victory he would immediately invite the Labor Party to
join Likud in a National Unity Government. Public opinions polls show that
the majority of Israelis would welcome such a government. Labor, however,
may decide to forgo a National Unity Government because of fundamental
disagreements over peace process policy, or, more cynically, because of the
expectation that Sharon’s government will be short-lived, and instead work
on rebuilding their party in opposition until the next election.
Under a National Unity scenario, Likud’s 19 seats would be joined by
Labor’s 26 seats (under the "One Israel" banner which includes
the Gesher and Meimad parties). Natan Scharansky’s Yisrael B’Aliyah
Party (4 seats), along with the National Religious Party (5 seats) would be
expected to join the coalition. Other possibilities are Tommy Lapid’s
ultra-secular Shinui Party (6 seats) and all or some of the Center Party (6
Knesset seats) would join in a coalition with the Likud.
Sharon could bring together a right-wing coalition which includes Orthodox and politically right-wing
parties. This so-called "narrow coalition" would most likely be
comprised of Likud (15 seats), National Religious Party (5 seats, Yisrael Ba’aliya
(4 seats), the Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party (17 seats), the far right-wing
Yisrael Beiteinu (7 seats), the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (5) and
Herut (1). In addition, the Gesher Party, which has 2 seats in the "One
Israel" faction, is certain to join the Likud coalition, as would as
many as 3 seats from the Center Party.