Netanyahu struggling to shape workable coalition


Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his first minister only 17 days after swearing in his fourth government.

Veteran Likudnik Benny Begin was forced to resign from the cabinet after Mr Netanyahu brought in Gilad Erdan as Internal Security and Strategic Affairs Minister last week, exceeding Likud's quota of ministers by one. The coalition partners refused the Prime Minister's entreaties to allow the party an extra minister and Mr Begin had little choice but to tender his resignation.

Not all the party's members have acted as graciously. Over the weekend, its most junior MK, Oren Hazan, was threatening to abstain from votes if he was not appointed a deputy minister, or at least the Likud whip on the powerful finance committee.

Mr Hazan was ultimately mollified by appointments to five different committees and a temporary posting as deputy speaker, but his mini-rebellion and the short saga involving Mr Begin underline how difficult life is going to be for Mr Netanyahu in a coalition of only 61 Knesset members - the barest of majorities.

Over half of the 30 Likud Knesset members are either ministers, deputy ministers and, of course, the Knesset speaker. Each of the 12 remaining backbenchers will have to work very hard in the committees but six of them are committee chairpersons themselves, so a handful of remaining MKs will each have to represent the party on half-a-dozen committees.

This does not bode well for the government's ambitious legislative plans and will mean that Mr Netanyahu will remain vulnerable to the demands of every coalition member threatening not to appear at crucial committee votes.

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