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

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora