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JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bombshell announcement of a unity government agreement with new Kadima Party head Shaul Mofaz gives the Israeli leader an unshakeable government coalition for at least another year.

Netanyahu had announced at a Likud meeting on Monday evening that the time for new elections had come and urged his supporters to rally behind the party ahead of the September 4 election.

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Israeli prime-time TV news programs had already stationed reporters inside the Knesset on Monday night, where a majority of Knesset members were preparing to dissolve the parliament in order to prepare for new elections.

All the while, however, Netanyahu and Mofaz were meeting behind closed doors to discuss the parameters of a unity government deal.

Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni had ignored repeated calls during the past three years from faction members – including Mofaz – to form a unity government with Netanyahu.

President Shimon Peres congratulated Netanyahu on the formation of the new coalition, saying that “a national unity government is good for the people of Israel…the good of the state in light of the crucial challenges facing it requires broad national unity.” Yair Lapid, the former TV broadcaster whose newly formed Future Party was rising in the polls, ripped the formation of the new government. “This ugly alliance will bury all those involved,” he said.

Yossi Verter, who covers politics for the left of center Haa’retz daily, wrote on Tuesday, “After getting over initial feelings of disgust and nausea, you have to admit that Netanyahu has once again taught us all a lesson. He’s Israel’s number one politician, no doubt, by a mile.”

Labor Party chief Shelly Yachimovich will now assume the role of opposition leader.

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