Israel coalition deal reached, says Labor official

Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition offer will be put to the vote on Tuesday.
Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Ehud Barak have reached an understanding for a coalition deal between the parties, a Labor official told Israeli Army Radio on Tuesday.

“This is a dramatic agreement,” said the Labor Party’s Shalom Simchon, who is also agriculture and rural development minister. “I’ve been a member of three governments. The scale of this achievement is unprecedented.” Barak is expected to stay on as defense minister, according to Simchon. A divided Labor Party is expected to meet later Tuesday to discuss and vote on Netanyahu’s offer to join his Likud-led government. “This is the most dramatic decision in Labor history,” said Ofir Pines, a Labor official who opposes the proposed coalition pairing. “I hope the party proves it is not for sale, that it has a backbone.” Netanyahu was granted a 14-day extension by Israeli President Shimon Peres on Friday to negotiate a new coalition government. The prime minister-designate has had difficulty wooing moderate parties, including Labor and Kadima, into his government packed with right-wing allies. If unsuccessful, he may be forced to concede some key ministerial posts to nationalist Avigdor Lieberman’s party, which would be the second-largest faction in the coalition government behind Likud. Netanyahu has vowed to form a broad-based government, but it is unclear how he can keep that promise if he’s not able to bring Labor on board.