Israel PM in shock deal with rivals
ISRAEL'S Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has shocked all sides of the political spectrum with a spectacular last-minute about-face, abandoning his call for an early election and instead bringing the rival Kadima party into his troubled coalition.
Newly elected Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, who replaced former leader Tzipi Livni last month, will become deputy prime minister under the deal, with both parties agreeing that the government will serve out its full term, which ends in late 2013. In the hours before the Likud and Kadima leaders' surprise announcement, the Knesset's House Committee had passed a bill to dissolve the Parliament in preparation for an early election on September 4, and was preparing for its second and third readings.
Coalition partners Eli Yishai (Shas party) and foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) expressed support for the deal, although the inclusion of Kadima in the ruling coalition will undoubtedly dilute the power of these right-wing parties, commentators say.
The new coalition agreement stipulates that one of the key issues on the Israeli domestic political agenda - the controversial Tal Law that exempts thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews from compulsory military service - will be resolved in this session. Declared unconstitutional by Israel's High Court in February, the law was due to expire in August and a replacement bill was due to go before the Knesset in this session. An early election would have delayed that reform and the law would have been automatically extended in its current form. Mr Mofaz and Mr Netanyahu announced overnight that a new bill on military service would be introduced in the Knesset in July.
Mr Netanyahu said: ''Unity restores stability. A broad national unity government is good for security, good for the economy and good for the people of Israel.'' And while many Israeli politicians have expressed outrage over the deal, public opinion analyst Dahlia Scheindlin said the new coalition will simply confirm to voters that politics is a dirty game. ''Israelis are so disgusted with politicians in general … they see politicians as a bunch of elites who lie to them, who only care about each other and their own survival.
''But despite their lack of trust in politics and politicians, the public will not be particularly dismayed about Netanyahu staying in power - they want him to fix the social problems and maintain the status quo with the Palestinians … and they did not want early elections.''
Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich described the deal as ''an alliance of cowards and the most ridiculous and ludicrous zigzag in Israeli political history''. Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz described it in the Times of Israel as ''perhaps one of dirtiest tricks in the history of the state. A prime minister with neither a compass nor a conscience, and a desperate opposition leader who is corrupt to the bone.''