Likud-Labor Israeli Unity Government Likely
The head of Israel’s opposition Labor Party signaled Thursday that his party is not only willing but eager to join a unity government with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon because it backs his plan to pull out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank. “I imagine there will be an approach to Labor during next week to join in a new national unity government,” Labor Party chief Shimon Peres told reporters. “Labor is for a national union government because we think that the year of 2005 shouldn’t be spent on internal skirmishes of the parties or elections in the nation. “I think the year must be devoted not for politics but for policies, mainly to implement the disengagement, the withdrawal from Gaza, and the dismantling of the settlements in Gaza and in the northern part of Samaria [the northern West Bank].”
On Wednesday, Sharon’s coalition government was left with control of only 40 seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament, the Knesset, when the prime minister fired ministers from the Shinui party in retaliation for their votes against his budget. If Labor joins Sharon’s Likud-led government, the new coalition would control 62 seats in the the Knesset.
Interesting news, indeed, since it would almost ensure a go-ahead on Sharon’s Gaza-West Bank pullout plan. I’m a bit surprised by this since it would have been in Labor’s political interest to seek a no confidence vote to oust Sharon. On the other hand, this shows why Israel’s proportional representation system is so problematic: Even combined, the two dominant parties only have a one seat majority in the Knesset. This gives the fringe parties disproportionate power, as they can break governments by withdrawing their support from a coalition.