Israel PM unveils shock coalition deal with Kadima (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Jonah Mandel 05/08/12)
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday struck a surprise deal
with the opposition Kadima party to form what will be Israel´s
largest-ever coalition government, axing plans for a snap election.
The agreement to form what will be Israel´s seventh national unity
government was to be put to a vote in the Knesset later on Tuesday,
The move puts Netanyahu at the helm of a ruling coalition with 94
votes in the 120-seat parliament, the largest-ever majority for a
government in Israel.
Under the agreement, Shaul Mofaz, who took over leadership of the
centre-right Kadima party only six weeks ago, would become vice prime
minister as well as a minister within the premier´s office, a draft
of the deal showed.
The two men negotiated the the 11th-hour deal as the Knesset was
voting on a motion to end its current session to clear the way for
early elections this September rather than October 2013 as scheduled.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Mofaz, Netanyahu said the
agreement would give greater stability to the coalition, which is led
by his rightwing Likud party.
"When I saw I could form a broad coalition, I realised I could return
the stability without going to elections," he said.
Mofaz said Kadima´s decision to remain in opposition for the past
three years was "a historic mistake."
"Today we are correcting it," he said.
Over past months, Mofaz has launched several attacks on Netanyahu,
notably accusing him and his Defence Minister Ehud Barak of
manipulating the threat of a nuclear Iran to score political points
and scare the Israeli public.
Asked about the differences between his view on Iran and that of
Mofaz, Netanyahu said the issue would be handled in a "serious and
"Certainly one of the most important issues is the Iranian issue," he
Under the deal, Kadima and Likud will by the end of July replace a
contentious law that allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews to defer their
military service, with new legislation that would ensure a "fair"
sharing of the burden of army service.
They will also change the system of government by the end of 2012.
And Kadima MPs will take charge of three Knesset committees,
including the prestigious foreign and defence committee currently
headed by Mofaz.
The deal also involves a commitment to renew the peace process, with
Netanyahu saying he hoped the establishment of a new government would
encourage the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after a
hiatus of more than 20 months.
Mofaz said Israel should "negotiate with the Palestinians to achieve
an interim agreement before a permanent agreement."
For his part, Abbas called on the new government "to seize the
occasion of the enlargement of the coalition to speed up the
achievement of a peace deal with the Palestinian people and their
But in Gaza, the political advisor to Hamas prime minister Ismail
Haniya called the coalition a "threat."
"The formation of the national unity Israeli government represents a
grave threat to the Gaza Strip and strikes a blow to Abbas´s project
of negotiations," Yusef al-Rizq said.
News of a new unity government was welcomed by the ultra-nationalist
Yisrael Beitenu party, which is a key player in Netanyahu´s
coalition, but it warned "the real test" would be the new law on
drafting the ultra-Orthodox.
President Shimon Peres also welcomed the move, saying a national
unity government would be good for Israel "in light of the crucial
challenges facing it."
But Labour party chief Shelly Yachimovich blasted the deal as a "pact
"This is the most ridiculous zigzag in the history of Israeli
politics," she wrote on her Facebook page.
"With this final burial of Kadima, we have received a rare and
important opportunity to lead the opposition, and will do so with
energy and faith."
And Zehava Galon, leader of the leftwing Meretz party, said the fact
Netanyahu would have the backing of 94 MPs meant it would be "almost
a dictatorship" that would allow him to pass "almost any law he
The deal is a political coup not just for Netanyahu but also for
Mofaz, an Iranian-born former general and one-time military chief-of-
staff who took over Kadima following faction primaries on March 28.
Although Kadima emerged as the largest party in parliament following
the 2009 elections -- taking 28 seats -- it failed to form a
government, and polls have suggested it stood to lose up to half them
in any new election. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse.
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