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Israel's Netanyahu Closer to Forming Government

Israel's Prime Minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, is closer to forming a government that will be dominated by right-wing parties that oppose giving many concessions to the Palestinians. But Mr. Netanyahu is seeking to form a broad coalition by courting the left-of-center Labor party.

Mr. Netanyahu's Likud Party opened talks with the Labor Party, in an effort to cast the new coalition he forms as broad and moderate.

Analysts say Mr. Netanyahu wants to temper his coalition's image in the face of the international community. The United States and other nations have called for Israel to pursue a two-state solution, a goal that would require the Jewish State to make concessions to the Palestinians.

Akiva Eldar is an author and the chief political analyst at Tel Aviv's Ha'aretz newspaper.

"The main reason is to put some make-up on his face, to be able to present a kind of pragmatic, if you like, moderate coalition. The Labor Party is perceived as the party that started the peace process, the Oslo process. Once they are on board it is much easier to convince the international community that this government is not a radical-right government," Eldar said.

The Labor Party - led by current Defense Minister Ehud Barak - is divided, with many within the party opposing participation in a unity government.

The ruling centrist Kadima party led by Tzipi Livni has rejected calls to join the coalition.

Even if Mr. Netanyahu wins Labor Party support, the coalition would be dominated by right-wing parties.

Earlier, Mr. Netanyahu reached a deal with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party to join his coalition, getting Likud more seats that it needs in order to form a government by an April 3 deadline.

It was the second coalition deal Mr. Netanyahu has signed, bringing him closer to meeting the deadline.

Mr. Netanyahu last week signed on the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party led by Avigdor Lieberman, a politician who wants Arab Israelis to pledge allegiance to the Jewish State and says Israel's borders should be re-drawn to exclude Arab communities and put them under Palestinian control.

Under Mr. Netanyahu's deal with Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman - who last year publicly told Egypt's president to "go to hell" - would become Israel's foreign minister.