Drama in the Knesset: A short time after the Knesset passed on first reading a bill to bring elections forward to September 4 this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Leader of the Opposition Shaul Mofaz reached an agreement whereby Mofaz's Kadima party will join a government of national unity headed by Netanyahu. The move to bring the elections forward has thus been halted. The next elections to the Knesset will take place as originally mandated in November 2013, with Mofaz promising a safety net for Netanyahu until that date.
Mofaz will serve as a minister without portfolio and as deputy prime minister, and will be a member of the security cabinet. Later on, Kadima will receive the welfare portfolio, and the chairmanship of the Economic Affairs Committee, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and one more committee.
A 2:00 am, Netanyahu and Mofaz convened their Knesset factions to approve the move.
Netanyahu told his party that a coalition agreement had been signed whereby a bill to replace the "Tal Law" on conscription of haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) will be brought before the Knesset by the end of June this year. Constitutional changes will be introduced by the end of December, and the state budget will be passed.
Netanyahu said that Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Shas leader Eli Yishai had welcomed the broadening of the government and the cancellation of early elections. The new coalition will have the support of 94 out of the Knesset's 120 members.
Senior ministers, even those considered close to Netanyahu, said they had no clue that such a move was on the cards.
At the party meeting, Netanyhau explained that talks had begun a few days earlier in order to attain nationally important objectives. He explained that the move would give the government the support of more than 90 Knesset members. "That will provide stability. This is important for the economy and for security."
Mofaz told his party, "We have done something great for the State of Israel; an unprecedented agreement that makes the reform possible and that will bring about equality in shouldering the burden. We don't want portfolios, not even for me."
Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich, the main loser from the development, said that it was an alliance of cowards, and the most absurd and ridiculous zigzag in Israel's political history. "No-one will ever forget this trick, which unfortunately will cause deep harm to he public's faith in politics. However, with the burial of Kadima, the Labor Party has received a rare and important opportunity to lead the opposition, and it will do so with vigor and belief. The 2013 budget led by Netanyahu will be hard on Israelis, and we will fight it."
MK Danny Danon of Likud objected to the formation of a coalition together with Kadima. Turning to Netanyahu at the Likud party meeting, he said, "This move will extend Barak's hold on the Ministry of Defense for another year-and-a-half, and will parachute a left-wing party called Kadima into the government. This will a blow to the settlement movement, a blow to the values of Likud, and a blow to the Israeli public, which chose Likud to lead the State of Israel. We must not abandon Likud's natural partners. This move is an oxygen balloon for the political corpse called Kadima, and it will deflect the coalition from the right towards the center."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 8, 2012
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