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 South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid