The Israeli cabinet has backed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s invitation to a far-right party to join the government in a move likely to further complicate peace-making efforts with the Palestinians.
Among other radical policies Yisrael Beitenu, led by Avigdor Lieberman, advocates annexing parts of the occupied West Bank. It will give the Kadima-led administration a comfortable majority in parliament. One minister from junior coalition partner Labour resigned in protest.
But the party’s Education Minister, Yuli Tamir, said the expansion did not change anything fundamentally:. : “We supported the enlargement of the government and the government didn’t change its basic commitments – all the ideas that were there when the government was established”
But Arab Israeli-politicians are outraged.
“We are talking about a black day for Israeli democracy. Lieberman, Fascist Number One of the Israeli society, the parallel of Le Pen (French nationalist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen) and (Austria’s) Joerg Haider,” one Arab-Israeli parliamentarian said.
The development has also been condemned by the governing Palestinian militant group Hamas.
But with prospects poor for an imminent renewal of Middle East peace talks, there appear to be few issues ahead that could divide the new Israeli alliance.