News / Middle East

Israel Forms Unity Government, Calls Off Early Elections

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks during a joint news conference with Shaul Mofaz (not seen), head of the Kadima party which join Netanyahu's rightist coalition, at parliament in Jerusalem, May 8, 2012.Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks during a joint news conference with Shaul Mofaz (not seen), head of the Kadima party which join Netanyahu's rightist coalition, at parliament in Jerusalem, May 8, 2012.
x
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks during a joint news conference with Shaul Mofaz (not seen), head of the Kadima party which join Netanyahu's rightist coalition, at parliament in Jerusalem, May 8, 2012.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks during a joint news conference with Shaul Mofaz (not seen), head of the Kadima party which join Netanyahu's rightist coalition, at parliament in Jerusalem, May 8, 2012.
Scott Bobb
JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to a political deal forming a government of national unity with the leading opposition party and canceling plans to hold early elections.

Mr. Netanyahu told reporters he decided to form the unity government with the centrist Kadima party early Tuesday to restore political stability without going to elections.

He said a wide national unity government with Israel's largest opposition party is good for security, the economy, for society and for the people of Israel.

The new coalition has 94 members, or more than three-fourths of the parliament, and is the largest coalition in the country's history.

Under the deal, Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz - a former army chief and defense minister - becomes vice-prime minister and joins Mr. Netanyahu's powerful inner cabinet.   

Mofaz, who had been highly critical of the prime minister, says such a government is needed to face Israel's many challenges.

He said the unity government will enable Israel to confront security challenges and threats from any region. He said this will be done in a considered and responsible way, but will keep Israel's right to defend itself any time and any place, from within and from outside.

Israel has threatened military action to stop what it believes is Iran's effort to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is building a nuclear bomb and says it will retaliate, raising fears of a region-wide conflict.

The surprise announcement of the political deal in Israel came two days after Mr. Netanyahu called for early elections because of a widening split in his rightist coalition.

The coalition, headed by the prime minister's Likud party, was increasingly divided over a controversial law that exempts Ultra-Orthodox Jews from national service, and over the proposed dismantling of some illegal Jewish housing units in the West Bank.

The Netanyahu government is also facing a bruising battle over proposed cuts in next year's budget.

And it is facing international pressure to revive the stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

Mr. Netanyahu has called on Palestinian leaders to return to negotiations without pre-conditions. The Palestinians say Israel first must stop new construction in the occupied West Bank and release all political prisoners.

Mofaz said he thinks he could help re-start the talks. "I have some ideas about how we can move forward in order to achieve understanding with the Palestinians," he said. "But my idea [is] based on borders and security arrangements first. And I will speak with the prime minister."

Israeli political analyst Amit Segal said Mr. Netanyahu did not really want early elections but also did not like being dependent on right-wing parties that are often the power brokers in Israeli politics.

"Netanyahu got the best bargain ever in the history of Israeli politics," said Segal. "He got the largest party in the Knesset for the price of one deputy-prime minister [post] and that's all, almost for free."

Recent public opinion polls indicated Kadima would lose more than half of its seats in parliament if the elections were held today.

The polls indicated Likud would win any new elections but Mr. Netanyahu faced bruising battles with right-wing members of his coalition.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on
Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid