Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:06 pm (KSA) 16:06 pm (GMT)

Labour boosts hopes of broad Israel coalition

Israel’s Labour Party votes to join Likud in forming a coalition government
Israel’s Labour Party votes to join Likud in forming a coalition government

Israel's center-left Labour party voted on Tuesday to join a government led by right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu in a major boost for his chances of sealing a broad coalition.

Labour delegates voted 680-507 in favor of a coalition deal which the leader of the party, outgoing Defence Minister Ehud Barak, had reached earlier in the day with Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party.

 An absolute majority of the citizens want to see us together with the right in the same government 
Ehud Barak, Israel Defence Minister

Under the coalition deal with Barak, an administration led by Netanyahu's right-wing Likud would respect all of Israel's international agreements, a Labour Party negotiator said—a formula that includes accords envisaging Palestinian statehood.

Barak, an architect of Israel's recent Gaza offensive, is to retain his post as defense minister. Labour's Central Committee voted its approval of the coalition deal after a stormy debate.

The agreement will allow Netanyahu to broaden a coalition that would otherwise have been entirely dependent on support from far-right and religious parties.

Greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers, Barak told the convention before the vote that Israel "needs unity" after last month's tight general election.

"An absolute majority of the citizens want to see us together with the right in the same government," he told delegates.

No Likud's "figleaf"

 We will be a counterweight that will ensure that we do not have a right-wing government 
Ehud Barak, Israel Defence Minister

"I am not afraid of Benjamin Netanyahu, we will not be his figleaf ... We will be a counterweight that will ensure that we do not have a right-wing government," Barak said.

Netanyahu has pushed for as broad a coalition as possible amid concerns a narrow right-wing alliance would be unable to survive for long in the turbulent world of Israeli politics.

But he has failed to win over the centrist Kadima party of outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni—the largest faction in parliament.

Labour—the once-dominant party that suffered its worst-ever showing in the February 10 election—should get five ministries, according to the draft accord reached by Netanyahu and Barak.

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