Israeli parliament approves unity coalition | News | DW | 09.05.2012
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Israeli parliament approves unity coalition

Israel's Knesset gave the green light to a deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and the centrist Kadima party to form a national unity government.

The Israeli parliament has voted by a solid majority of 71 in favor and just 23 against for a national unity government after Netanyahu's Likud party and the centrist Kadima party reached a deal very early on Wednesday.

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, who had been the official leader of the opposition, has been sworn in as a minister without portfolio and as one of Netanyahu's deputy prime ministers.

With 94 legislators, Netanyahu now heads the biggest coalition since the mid 1980s. During Wednesday's debate in parliament, members of the opposition attacked Mofaz for joining forces with a premier he had only recently called a "liar" and whose cabinet he had vowed not to sit in.

Row over conscription

Netanyahu's previous government had become unstable because smaller parties had threatened to bring it down over the issue of conscription.

Military service is generally compulsory In Israel, with men over 18 serving three years and women two. Community service is an option for those who cannot or do not want to serve. There are also exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews, a factor which has pitted religious against secular political factions. The draft exemptions have also become one of the most contentious issues in Israeli society as a whole.

At a news conference on Tuesday, both Netanyahu and Mofaz said the conscription debate would be top of the new coalition's agenda. The Supreme Court had declared the current system unconstitutional in February and has ordered the government to come up with an alternative by July 31.

On Monday, Netanyahu said he would hold new parliamentary elections in September, more than a year ahead of schedule. But, at the last minute, he reached a deal to bring the centrist Kadima into his government, shoring up the coalition and averting the need for elections, which will now be held - as planned - in October 2013.

ng/ipj (dpa, AP)

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