Israeli PM Encourages 'Cooperation' with New Gov't

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the first meeting of the new government Monday morning.

"Of all the three times that I have had this privilege of leading the State of Israel, I cannot remember a more challenging period vis-à-vis the accumulated risks on one hand and the opportunities on the other, and of course, the expectations of Israel's citizens," Netanyahu told cabinet ministers.

"I think that it is within our power to meet all of these challenges, without exception," he said, emphasizing the need for "cooperation and unity."

"I very much encourage discussion around this table. I encourage people -- as it will become clear to the newcomers -- to speak their minds," he continued. "I think that by hearing all sides we will, in the end, make correct and balanced decisions," he said.

Topping the agenda was the appointment of a security cabinet, sometimes referred to as the "kitchen cabinet." It too was shaved from 15 to seven members.

The ministers also approved extending the deadline to submit the budget, allowing lawmakers 85 days to complete and submit it before the full Knesset. Israeli law requires three readings before it's passed so ministers allowed 50 days for that process, which means the new budget should be in place by August.

On Monday evening, President Shimon Peres called the new government "a fresh breeze."

"It is a government that has both veteran members and new faces, a government that has those with experience in government work and abilities in other, varied fields," Peres said.

As Israel continues preparations for President Barack Obama's arrival this week, families are preparing for the Passover holiday, which begins Monday evening.

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