Netanyahu picks Kulanu party head as Israel's finance minister

Moshe Kahlon (C), addresses supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
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TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen the head of centrist Kulanu party as Israel's next finance minister, confirming an informal offer made two days before the country's national election. Moshe Kahlon was told of the appointment in a one-on-one conversation late on Tuesday, a spokesman for Netanyahu's Likud party, Nir Hefetz, said on Wednesday. Netanyahu's rightist Likud party won 30 seats in the 120-member parliament in the March 17 election, comfortably defeating the center-left Zionist Union opposition on 24 seats but leaving him reliant on other parties to govern. Kulanu, which won 10 seats and supports Netanyahu's efforts to form a government, declined to comment. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will formally nominate Netanyahu to form an administration later on Wednesday. Former communications minister Kahlon, 54, will succeed Yair Lapid, who was dismissed by Netanyahu before the election. One of his first tasks will be to pass a budget for 2015 and 2016 as the country has been operating since the start of the year without one. (Reporting by Tova Cohen; editing by John Stonestreet)

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