Home News UK & World News

Netanyahu 'unity government deal'

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reached an agreement with the Kadima opposition party for a unity government, cancelling an early election, it has been reported.

There was no immediate comment from official sources on the decision.

The reports came as Israel's parliament held debates long into the night over whether to disperse ahead of early elections called for the autumn.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli government proposed the election be moved up to September 4. The election had originally been set for 2013.

According to the reports, Mr Netanyahu forged an agreement with opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of Kadima shortly before parliament was due to vote to disperse.

Reports said Kadima agreed to join Mr Netanyahu's government on the condition it supported a proposal about military deferment for Ultra-Orthodox Jews. The issue was one of the main reasons Mr Netanyahu decided to bring forward the election date.

The deal stipulates that Mr Mofaz will serve as deputy prime minister and that two other key parties, Yisrael Beitenu and Shas, had agreed to the move, according to reports.

The current government is the most stable Israel has had in years. But disagreements on a variety of domestic issues such as drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the military and tearing down illegal structures in West Bank settlements have led Mr Netanyahu to move up elections by more than a year.

Recent polls have suggested his Likud Party would win at least a quarter of parliament's 120 seats to become the legislature's largest faction - putting him in a comfortable position to form a majority coalition. They also show he might be able to form a more moderate coalition than the hawkish line-up he now heads, in partnership with centrist parties more open to making concession to the Palestinians.

The early elections have also renewed speculation that Israel might attack Iran's suspect nuclear programme, perhaps within months.