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In a much expected development, the labor party voted to Join the Likud government with a slim (54%) margin. Earlier today, Barak and Netanyahu agreed on a draft agreement that stipulated that, in exchange for Labor’s joining the coalition, the Israeli government would commit toward working for achieve regional peace, affirm its commitment to all agreements signed by previous Israeli governments, allow Barak to continue on as defense minister and be a full partner in the diplomatic process, and enforce the law on illegal outposts, according to media reports.

Bibi Netanyahu now has 65 seats, five more than he needs to form a government. His other coalition partners include the Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas parties.

“I am not afraid of Benjamin Netanyahu. We won’t be anyone’s fig leaf or anyone’s third wheel,” Barak told the Labor central committee. “We will act as an opposing force that will ensure there will not be a narrow right-wing government, but a real government that looks after the State of Israel.”  (Source JTA)

The truth is, Labour had very good reasons to join the government.  After being the lead party for over half of Israel’s existence, the party has been sinking in the voting in recent elections to the point that it placed fourth this time. A stint in the opposition would have doomed the party to be even more inconsequential than it already is.  For Ehud Barak it is a lifeline to his political career. For Likud it not only gets them over the hump, but it “softens” the the rhetoric that this would be a far right government (and all it was is rhetoric).  Bibi was pretty satisfied with Barak’s stint as Defense Minister so that is a plus.

Don’t think that Bibi is done.  Negotiations with Kadima have never really stopped and he has another week and a half to present a government.  Now the pressure on Tzipi Livni to join the government will increase.  The real holdup has been the fact that she wanted to share the PM position (via a Rotation) with Netanyahu.  Elements in the party have wanted Kadima to join the government even though Livni has balked at the suggestions.

Now that Bibi can say that he has a broad coalition and enough seats, the “sharing” idea is out. But, will Kadima which was formed by Ariel Sharon out of Labour and Likud bite on a coalition deal now?  Negotiations will be fast and furious.  The only answer I can give is do not believe any rumors and we will find out within a week and a half.

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