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Israel appears to have a new government. It took nearly two months to form a ruling coalition following parliamentary elections. As NPR's Larry Abramson reports from Jerusalem, the divisions that made the coalition talks so difficult will continue to create problems for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
LARRY ABRAMSON, BYLINE: Since elections in mid-January, Netanyahu has been trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle that just would not fit. If he included his traditional allies, such as the religious parties, he would close out any chance of forming a government with Yair Lapid. He is the former TV newsman whose platform focused on military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Netanyahu even courted his ideological opposite, the Labor Party, but the left would not deal with him.
Professor Reuven Hazan of Hebrew University says, in the end, Netanyahu had to make major concessions to the strong front created by Lapid and the right wing Jewish Home party.
REUVEN HAZAN: He has formed a government that is not focused on the main issue of Israeli politics, which is security.
ABRAMSON: Instead, the new government is aimed at domestic problems, such as the draft issue and government reform. Attacking those problems will make life harder for Netanyahu, as he will have to take things away from his traditional supporters. Netanyahu did manage to hold onto key ministerial posts. The foreign and defense ministries will stay with the Likud-Beiteinu alliance. And the new coalition may allow Netanyahu to continue his hard-line approach toward the Palestinians. Coalition member Jewish Home is opposed to the two-state solution entirely. Yair Lapid supports negotiations, but has made clear he will not make major concessions. Reuven Hazan says that means...
HAZAN: There is no strong advocate for the peace process in the current government. We might get back to negotiating, but these negotiations are going to lead nowhere, and they won't last for very long.
ABRAMSON: The new government should be sworn in just in time for the arrival of President Obama next Wednesday.
Larry Abramson, NPR News, Jerusalem.