Trouble looms for Israel coalition

Netanyahu's emerging government already appears beset by political wrangling.

    Lieberman was promised the foreign ministry and
    may pull out of the coalition if he is refused it [AFP]

    Meanwhile, Israeli radio reported that Kadima, the current coalition leader, was urging a delay to the swearing-in of Netanyahu's government, due to take place later on Tuesday.

    'Swollen' cabinet

    Critics have already attacked the emerging government, made up of 30 cabinet ministers, as bloated, saying the swollen administration is the result of too many job promises made to sweeten coalition allies.

    The outgoing coalition of Ehud Olmert, the soon-to-be former prime minister, by contrast had 27 ministers.

    In an editorial, Israel's Haaretz daily reminded readers that a member of Netanyahu's own right-wing Likud party in the last parliament asserted that anything more than 18 ministers would be a "waste of public money".

    On Monday, Israel's Channel 1 television reported that Netanyahu had named Yuval Steinitz, an academic and Likud official who has not held a ministerial post before, as finance minister.

    It had been expected that Netanyahu, who has held the finance ministry in the past and won praise for his role there, would take the post himself.

    Channel 1 said the demands of the finance minister's job were such that "Netanyahu decided to appoint a full-time minister to the post".

    Czech criticism

    More broadly, Israeli policies have been criticised by the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU presidency.

    A planned EU-Israel summit is unlikely to take place in the next three months, Karel Schwarzenberg said on Tuesday.

    "We are not happy with some of the steps of the Israeli government, namely construction works close to Jerusalem but also access to Gaza, which is today very limited," the Czech daily Lidove Noviny quoted Schwarzenberg as saying.

    Two people were killed and two others injured in an Israeli air raid on Tuesday [AFP]
    Israel has earned international criticism for restricting traffic on the Gaza border since its December-January offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

    The war killed over 1,300 Palestinians and destroyed some 5,000 homes.

    Also on Tuesday, medical workers said that an Israeli air raid on the Gaza Strip killed two Palestinian fighters and injured two other people.

    Residents of the nearby Maghazi refugee camp, said a helicopter fired two missiles at fighters who had launched a rocket-propelled grenade at Israeli forces. One Israeli soldier was reported as being lightly wounded.

    An Israeli military spokeswoman said that fire had been directed against fighters who tried to plant explosive devices along the border fence.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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