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Israel forms unity government, wards off September elections (CNN) Cable News Network) By Kevin Flower JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/08/12) Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/08/world/meast/israel-politics/index.html?hpt=imi_c2
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Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party have agreed to form a unity government with the rival centrist political faction Kadima in a move that will put off elections until late next year and create one of the largest coalition governments in Israeli history.
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The deal was reached early Tuesday morning between Netanyahu and Kadima Party leader Shaul Mofaz, a day after Netanyahu had publicly called for early elections to be held September 4.
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Appearing together at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the Knesset, the two leaders attempted to explain the sudden change in direction.
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"When I thought the stability is rocking I was willing to go to elections," Netanyahu said. "But when I found out that it is possible to create a broad, very broad government... I understood that we can bring back the state of stability without changing the time of elections."
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Mofaz characterized the agreement as an "historic opportunity" for the government to put the public good before narrow political concerns.
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Both men said that the new coalition, made up of 94 of 120 Knesset members, would be better capable of addressing a variety of domestic and security concerns.
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The agreement calls for Mofaz to enter the government as a deputy prime minister and offers a number of Kadima Party members senior Knesset committee positions.
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Kadima will be given a leading role in redrafting a controversial law that provides an exemption for compulsory military service to ultra- orthodox men in Israel.
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Political disagreement over the sensitive issue was one of the major factors leading Netanyahu to push for early elections in September.
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Both men also identified upcoming budget negotiations, government reform and the need to restart talks with Palestinians as the most important goals of the new government.
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The unexpected move by Netanyahu upends the political calculations of smaller left-of-center parties and provides him with a comfortable governing coalition less sensitive to the demands of his current right-wing coalition partners. For Mofaz and his fellow Kadima members, the move buys another year in office without having to face voters amid sagging popularity ratings.
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What impact the new coalition could have on Israel´s handling of Iran´s nuclear program is not entirely clear.
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While a stable and unified Israeli government sends a strong signal to leaders in Tehran, Mofaz, a former military chief-of-staff and defense minister, has generally been less hawkish on Iran than Netanyahu and has expressed reservations about Israel taking unilateral military action against the Islamic republic´s nuclear installations.
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"This is not going to lead to a major change of policy on Iran," says Meir Javendanfar, an Iran expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
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"This is far more about domestic politics than Iran," Javendanfar said, adding, "any decisions on Iran still depended greatly on the United States" rather than a new governing coalition.
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The Knesset is likely to endorse the new coalition deal in the next two days. (© 2012 Cable News Network 05/08/12)
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