Labor Party Joins Netanyahu’s Incoming Coalition

Outrage Among Labor, Likud Officials Make for a Contentious Match

by Jason Ditz, March 24, 2009

Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally got his wish for a broader coalition government today, when a 680-507 vote brought the Labor Party of Ehud Barak into the incoming right-far right coalition government led by the Likud Party.

Yet how many of Labor’s 13 seats will actually wind up in the ruling coalition remains to be seen. At least 6 of the MPs were strongly opposed to the move, and as many as 7 have been seen as potentially defecting from the party and becoming part of the opposition. The worst case scenario would have Netanyahu netting only six seats, leaving him still short of a majority without the support of another far right party.

Besides likely tearing the Labor Party in half, the move has proved extremely controversial in the Likud Party, which sees Netanyahu giving several key ministries for what may ultimately only be half of the Labor Party, while many Likud ministers will likely be left without portfolios.

The inclusion of Labor, even if it is only a fraction of what was already an extremely weakened party, has been seen as critical for the credibility of the hawkish Netanyahu and his even more hawkish coalition mates on the international scene. Retaining Ehud Barak as Defense Minister, even if his party’s numbers don’t warrant it, will provide at least the illusion that the next Israeli government is a broad coalition instead of the bellicose, far right government it will likely be.

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