Israeli election looms as talks on coalition fail (Guardian)
Date : 2008-10-25 09:09:07
Israel moved closer to an early general election yesterday when an ultra-Orthodox party refused to join a coalition that the prime minister-designate, Tzipi Livni, has spent weeks trying to form.
The decision by Shas, a rightwing party representing religious Jews from non-European backgrounds, means that Livni faces the prospect of forming a coalition with a slim majority, or failing outright, which means elections would follow early next year.
Livni said a final decision would be reached by tomorrow.
Livni, the current foreign minister, narrowly won the leadership of the ruling party, Kadima, in an internal vote last month. She then had six weeks to form a coalition with at least 61 votes in the 120-seat Knesset. She already had the support of the Labour party, giving her a total of 48 seats, and could expect the support of at least one other small party, but still hoped for Shas's 12 seats.
The negotiations with Shas were difficult from the start. The party made two key demands: an increase in child allowances and a promise that in any peace negotiations Israel would not agree to divide Jerusalem. Livni offered less money for the allowances, but proposed to extend the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts. However, the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, decided to pull out of the talks.