Politics: ISRAEL'S COALITION

Article excerpt

TEL AVIV, Israel (DPA) - One of the largest coalitions in Israeli political history turned out to be its shortest-lived, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can still hold onto power - albeit with far less maneuverability.

The decision Tuesday by the centrist Kadima party to pull its 28 legislators out of the government, in a dispute over forcing ultra-Orthodox Jews to perform military or national service, leaves Netanyahu at the helm of a government commanding the support of 66 of the 120 legislators in parliament.

It is a slim majority, but it is the same majority Netanyahu enjoyed before Kadima (in one of the biggest surprises in Israeli political history) came on board overnight on May 8.

His right-wing coalition had previously functioned, more or less smoothly, without the centrist party in its ranks, and aides of the premier were upbeat that it would continue to do so.

"For four years they have been talking about moving up the elections, and this government just keeps working " sources told the Yediot Aharanot daily.

If the breakup of what had been a 94 member coalition means anything, it is that Netanyahu probably has less parliamentary backing for a possible military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But it is still far from certain whether such a strike is in the offing, as a slew of US officials visit Jerusalem, reportedly to warn the Israel to hold off.

What is unlikely to be affected by Kadima's departure is the peace process with the Palestinians - for the simple reason that it was largely unaffected by Kadima's entry into the government.

The peace process has been effectively quagmired since late September, 2010, and neither side has shown much willingness to move beyond firmly-entrenched positions in order to get it going again.

Mofaz, on joining forces with Netanyahu, announced that advancing the peace process with the Palestinians was one of the new coalition's prime aims. …