Cancelling an early election date like flicking a switch Benjamin Netanyahu justifies as a move to help Israel face its challenges.
The unity government deal means Kadima commits to supporting Likud’s policies till Netanyahu’s term expires late next year.
Political opponents called Netanyahu’s actions “a ridiculous zig-zag” and “cowardly”.
The chairman of the opposition Kadima Party, Shaul Mofaz, a former defence minister and military chief, recently replaced former foreign affairs minister Tzipi Livni as head of the centrists.
For him, this is political gold.
Public surveys had shown support for Kadima plummeting with the prospect of a September 4 election.
Now it is sure to keep its seats in the Knesset. It has 28 of them, Likud 66 – 94 out of a total of 120.
Netanyahu’s right-leaning popularity is soaring. This deal consolidates his power. It strengthens him in the face of factions further to the right.
He said the new coalition will focus on passing a budget, on electoral reforms, on a peace process and on rewriting a law that has exempted many religious Jews from military service. Ultra-orthodox politicians defend that law.
The Likud-Kadima pact is also seen as signal to Iran, and the US and Europe, that Israel’s strong political front is fully capable of seeing to its security. Israel has regularly hinted it will strike Iran if the Islamic republic does not curb its nuclear plans. Israeli officials have said the next year will be crucial for decisions on that.
The government will also be tested over settlement building. Many Netanyahu supporters want him to push through legislation to support it.
The Supreme Court of Israel, however, has just ruled in favour of a Palestinian private land owner and ordered the government to demolish five apartment buildings in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.
It is not clear if Kadima would support a move to get around that, which would draw further international condemnation.