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How Netanyahu's 'unity' government may affect Palestinians, Iran

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“A unity government reduces the likelihood of criticism of the government should an operation go wrong,” wrote Ron Ben Yishai, a military affairs columnist for Ynet.com news website. “It strengthens Israel’s deterrence and enhances its decisionmaking ability of the leaders on foreign policy and security issues, of which Iran is foremost.”

Mr. Netanyahu seemed to be headed toward sure reelection if parliament dissolved, according to polls. But the deal, which snubs his core hardline constituencies, sends a message that he wants greater flexilibity to address problems that have roiled Israel in recent months, from international concern over Iran to whether Israel's ultrareligious should no longer receive exemptions from military service.

Israeli analysts also suggested that Netanyahu backed down from elections now because he fears that the grassroots of his party has been overrun by Jewish settlers. The prime minister denied that suggestion.

It's all about stability

Speaking at a press conference, Netanyahu defended the sudden about-face as motivated by his desire to bolster government stability rather than head toward early elections.

He said the new government’s priorities would be domestic policy, such as new legislation on military service exemptions and electoral reform. He added that the unity government would also seek to advance “a responsible peace process,” but still laid the blame for the 18-month impasse in talks on the Palestinians.

The Palestinians cautiously welcomed the change in government. A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas called on the Israeli government not to miss the new “opportunity” to revive the peace process.

A senior Palestinian official said that the new government should be able to reinstitute a freeze in settlement expansion and reach an understanding with the Palestinians about the ground rules for peace talks.

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