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

Multimedia Baltimore 'Victory Rally' Follows Charges in Detainee Death

Saturday's rally is largest organized gathering since state's attonrey filed felony charges in police-custody death of Freddie Gray More

UN Denies Child Sex Abuse Cover Up in CAR

UNHCR says senior official suspected of leaking report suspended for breaching rules More

Nepal Officials Slammed Over Aid Response

VOA News has compiled from various organizations complaints from across Nepal of bottlenecks at customs, repeated harassing inspections of aid convoys and seizure of goods More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs