Israeli Government and Opposition Unveil New Unity Government
Tel Aviv, May 8 (RHC)-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a revamped coalition government on Tuesday, forming a broad alliance with the chief opposition party that could mean further intransigence toward the Palestinians.
In a stunning reversal, Netanyahu called off plans to hold early parliamentary elections and struck an agreement with the rival Kadima Party. Netanyahu, the head of the rightist Likud party, now presides over a coalition with 94 seats in the 120-member parliament, one of the broadest governments in Israeli history.
Netanyahu and Kadima's leader, Shaul Mofaz, who is described as center-right, appeared together at a mid-day news conference, saying their alliance would bring what they called "much-needed stability" to Israeli politics. They promised close cooperation on Iran and expressed hope that long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians would resume, although signs of differences on the Palestinian issue quickly surfaced.
Netanyahu's current coalition has been divided in recent weeks over court orders to demolish two West Bank settlement outposts and to end draft exemptions for tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men.
Unable to bridge these differences, Netanyahu announced Monday he would push for early elections in September, more than a year ahead of schedule. But in an overnight deal that stunned the nation, he instead joined forces with Kadima, the largest party in parliament with 28 seats.
Some political observers noted that the new coalition could move to toughen Tel Aviv's policies against the Palestinians and might consolidate an Israeli decision to attack Iran.