Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is chairing a cabinet meeting today which, for the first time in Israel’s history, consists of just one party – his own, Likud. He aims to elict its support for forming a coalition with Labour, in order to avoid calling early elections.
Sharon is walking a political tightrope after sacking his main coalition partner – the secular Shinui party – on Wednesday for voting against the 2005 state budget over subsidies to religious groups. Likud is now in control of just 40 of parliament’s 120 seats. But before starting talks with Labour – which controls 22 seats, Sharon must reverse a decision by Likud to bar negotiations with the party. He is hoping that, compared with early elections, even hardliners would see a partnership with Labour as the lesser of two evils, despite their ideological differences.