03/16/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL
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Netanyahu and Lieberman, first agreements for new government

by Joshua Lapide
The far right party Yisrael Beiteinu will take the foreign ministry and the ministries of security, tourism, and immigrant absorption. Agreement from the Shas party is also expected today. Lieberman's secularist demands have been reduced, but dialogue with the Palestinians is becoming much more difficult.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Prime minister elect Benjamin Netanyahu has stitched together the first piece of his future governing coalition, by reaching an agreement with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the party Yisrael Beiteinu. Today, Netanyahu will try to reach an agreement with the Shas party.

According to a spokesman for Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman himself will be given the foreign ministry, and his party will be given the ministries of security, tourism, and immigrant absorption. Reinforcing its position in the last elections with 15 seats, becoming the third largest party in the country, Lieberman's party is on the far right, but is secular. During the electoral campaign, he supported civil marriages (impossible in Israel) and wanted to require a pledge of allegiance to the state of Israel for all Arabs present within its borders.

These positions were softened in order to reach an agreement with Shas, a far right religious party, although it is still not known what the effect will be on dialogue with the Palestinians. Netanyahu's Likud and two other parties are against the peace process and against the creation of a Palestinian state. At most, they foresee a relationship to improve the economic situation of the Palestinians.

Before this, Palestinian minister Riad Malki had said that an "anti-peace" government was emerging in Israel. "We have to declare that sadly there is no partner on the Israeli side to negotiate with."

It is not yet known whether the future government will be viewed favorably by the United States, which wants to continue the peace process, but also does not want to diminish its close relationship with Israel.

Netanyahu has until April 3 to build a coalition to guarantee him a majority in the Knesset.

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