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

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“A major shift has happened in Israel’s government this night. Israel’s government is no longer a right-wing government,” says Amit Segal, a political commentator for Channel 2 news. “In the long term, it will enable Mr. Netanyahu to try to reach an agreement with the Palestinians without fearing the reaction of Mr. Lieberman or the right wingers of his party.”

Netanyahu’s big-tent government also gives him more political cover if he chooses to be more aggressive against Iran because of the presence of Mr. Mofaz, a former army chief of staff and former defense minister who has been critical of Israel's stance on Iran, in the decisionmaking process, say analysts.

“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.

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