Israel is a country used to regular political tremors but the latest deal to keep the government in power was more like an earthquake.

"It gives him [Netanyahu] potentially a lot more room to manoeuvre and guarantees a period of political stability in a time when, as everybody knows, there are some big issues on the agenda."

- Ian Black, The Guardian's Middle East editor

Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, called off early elections just hours after announcing the date for the vote, and is instead forming a government with a rival party, the centrist Kadima.

The recently elected head of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, will be deputy prime minister in Israel's seventh national unity government.

The move puts Netanyahu at the helm of one of Israel's largest ever ruling coalitions, with an overwhelming 94 votes in the 120-seat Knesset.

Both partners are calling their surprise alliance "historic" and "a source of hope" for Israel.

 The Knesset's formation
Party Seats
Kadima   28
Likud   27
Yisrael Beiteinu   15
Shas   11
Labor   8
United Torah Judaism   5
Independence   5
National Union   4
Hadash   4
United Arab List-Ta'al   4
The Jewish Home   3
New Movement-Meretz   3
Balad   3
Total   120

Under the unity deal, Kadima will chair four powerful parliamentary committees, including foreign affairs and defence, and in the coming year, the party will receive additional ministerial positions.

Netanyahu also agreed to back Mofaz's proposed legislation to replace the so-called Tal Law, which allows ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students to defer military conscription.

The new coalition will look at electoral reform and the budget is expected to pass smoothly.

The Kadima party also received a commitment from Netanyahu to re-start the Middle East peace talks as well as a promise to conduct "serious and responsible" talks on Iran.

But the position of Iranian-born Mofaz is very much at odds with his new boss Netanyahu.

Speaking about Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March, Netanyahu said: "We've waited for diplomacy to work. We've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer."

Mofaz, on the other hand, opposes unilateral military action against Iran and has said: "The greatest threat to the state of Israel is not a nuclear Iran. Israel must have all its options open and that a military solution should be the last resort."

Now that Netanyahu is no longer dependent on the extreme right, is this an unprecedented window of opportunity for peace in the Middle East and is the deal likely to unify Israel politically against Iran's nuclear ambition? What can a broad coalition achieve and why has it been formed just days after early elections were announced?

Inside Story, with presenter Stephen Cole, discusses with guests: Ian Black, the Middle East editor for The Guardian; Doron Avital, an Israeli politician serving as a member of the Knesset for Kadima; and Avishay Braverman, a member of the Knesset for the Labor Party.

Source: Al Jazeera