In dramatic shift, Likud, Kadima form national unity government (ISRAEL HAYOM) Mati Tuchfeld, Shlomo Cesana, Israel Hayom Staff and News Agencies 05/08/12)
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Elections canceled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now stands at
the helm of the broadest coalition in Israel´s history, with 94 MKs
Kadima´s Shaul Mofaz vows to work to change Tal Law, system of
government, pass budget, and advance peace process.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz
dropped an unprecedented political bombshell early Tuesday, as the
two decided to join forces, establish a national unity government,
and cancel plans for what only hours earlier had seemed to be an
inevitable early election.
Mofaz announced before dawn that Kadima, the head of the opposition
until the agreement was reached and the biggest faction in the
Knesset with 28 seats, would be joining Netanyahu´s Likud-led
coalition to advance two flagship issues: the modification of the
system of government in Israel and the equal enlistment of all
populations to the military.
The deal between the two parties stipulated that an alternative to
the Tal Law, which exempts ultra-Orthodox men from mandatory military
service, would be submitted by July and that a deal would be reached
by December to alter the system of government. In exchange, Kadima
vowed to ensure that the current government would remain intact for
its full term, which ends in November 2013.
Mofaz said that parliamentary taskforces headed by Kadima
representatives would be established to advance these issues. Under
the deal, Mofaz will be named deputy prime minister, and Kadima will
be given the chairmanship of the Knesset Economics Committee. It
already chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The move was especially surprising in light of recent remarks made by
Mofaz, who has insisted repeatedly that he would challenge
Netanyahu´s failing leadership and swore that he would never join
Netanyahu´s government. Even more surprising was the timing: The
meeting in which the unity deal was struck was held simultaneously
with a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset and hold early
elections on Sept. 4. The bill was nearly unanimously approved (110
in favor versus one against) in its first reading, with Kadima voting
The second and third readings of the bill were called off when the
unity government was announced. Coalition Chairman MK Zeev Elkin
actively delayed the legislation process, after the bill was already
approved, to allow the negotiations between Netanyahu and Mofaz to
"This move was begging to happen," said one Kadima member. "The prime
minister gets the political stability he wanted, and Mofaz gets to
delay the elections, which, had they been held now, would likely have
At 2 a.m., the Likud and Kadima factions convened separate emergency
meetings for a briefing on the new development. "I didn´t want to go
to elections," Netanyahu explained to his party. "But I saw the
coalition begin to unravel, so I went for it." He added that the
unity deal had been coordinated with coalition partners Yisrael
Beitenu and Shas, who supported the move.
Netanyahu and Mofaz held a joint press conference around noon
Tuesday, during which Netanyahu said that political stability is of
utmost importance to Israel at this time. He praised Mofaz for the
decision to join the coalition, saying Mofaz "took an important step."
"When I thought that the government´s stability was being undermined,
I was ready to go to elections," Netanyahu said. "But when it became
clear to me that it would be possible to establish an extremely broad
government, I understood we could restore stability without
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz interrupted Netanyahu as he spoke,
shouting, "This is corruption in the fullest sense of the word,"
before being removed from the press conference.
Netanyahu said his new coalition government would promote
a "responsible" peace process with the Palestinians, as well as
presenting a "responsible" alternative to the Tal Law and
a "responsible" budget that would take economic and social concerns
"The peace process is stalled because the Palestinians are not
willing to resume negotiations," Netanyahu said. "Maybe now they will
reconsider. We have been prepared to resume talks in the past, and
still today. I hope that they take advantage of this opportunity to
return to the negotiating table and conduct responsible talks in
which both sides will have to make painful decisions."
He also said the new coalition government would hold serious talks
about Iran´s nuclear program, although Mofaz has previously spoken
out against an Israeli strike on Iran something that Netanyahu and
Defense Minister Ehud Barak are said to support.
Netanyahu told the news conference Tuesday that he and Mofaz already
have had many discussions about Iran and would continue to
hold "serious and responsible" talks on the matter. As a former
military chief, Mofaz´s opinion could carry great weight in a
decision on whether to strike.
Netnayahu also said he had offered former Kadima head Tzipi Livni the
chance to be part of a unity government twice. "I am very glad that
Shaul Mofaz accepted the offer," he said. "I have received the
blessing of the other parties for this move. This is not a fake
unity it is for the sake of action and for strengthening of the
State of Israel."
For his part, Mofaz said, "I made a decision to join the prime
minister and he expressed an openness to issues that are a part of
the Kadima platform. We decided to undertake a historic move. This
was not extortion." Mofaz said he wanted to be a part of discussions
on national and defense issues that are crucial to the State of
Israel. "I didn´t ask for a portfolio," he said. "He offered me one,
but I won´t say what. I will be involved in all the issues Israel
currently has to deal with, and I promise you that our impact will be
When asked about recent remarks he had made, calling Netanyahu a
liar, Mofaz replied, "The prime minister and myself have decided to
put the past behind us."
Mofaz said there are moments when a nation has to make difficult
decisions and leaders have to make difficult personal choices as
well. "Together, we can change things in Israel," he said.
"This is the biggest national unity coalition, which is important for
the future of Israel 94 coalition members would know how to deal
with future challenges facing Israel. We are here to join forces and
confront the challenges - which are not easy challenges that lie
ahead," Mofaz said.
Mofaz also commented on the deadlocked talks with the Palestinians,
saying, "We will continue to discuss how to move forward to achieve
an understanding with the Palestinians, but we have to talk about
borders and security arrangements first."
Mofaz added that it would have been easy to remain in the opposition,
but "when you have this kind of political power and Kadima has 28
seats it would have been irresponsible of me to decline [joining
He said that joining a unity coalition would ultimately serve to
benefit Israel and its citizens. "The fact that Kadima was not a
partner in a unity government until now was a mistake," he said.
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