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Knesset No-confidence Motion Fails, but Trouble Brews in Barak Coalition

Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s government has survived its first no-confidence motion in the Knesset, but storm clouds already appear to be brewing above his newly formed coalition.

By a vote Monday of 63 to 31, the Parliament easily defeated a no-confidence motion submitted by the Likud Party over Barak’s handling of coalition negotiations.

The opposition party likened the negotiations to horse-trading and denounced Barak’s plans to amend one of Israel’s basic laws, which serve in lieu of a Constitution, in order to expand his government.

Likud Knesset member Reuven Rivlin accused the prime minister of seeking to expand the government to placate demands from coalition partners and his own One Israel bloc.

Cabinet member Haim Ramon, responded by accusing Likud of having a short-term memory, pointing out that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed the basic laws seven times during his tenure.

Though Barak’s coalition fended off the opposition onslaught, a potential coalition crisis is meanwhile gathering steam.

Interior Minister Natan Sharansky accused officials of Barak’s One Israel bloc of pulling a fast one on his Yisrael Ba’Aliyah Party by promising a ministry to two members who split away last week.

Yisrael Ba’Aliyah received one ministry when the government was formed and was promised to receive another, the Absorption Ministry, when and if the government is enlarged, as Barak plans, from 18 to 24 ministers.

But the departure from Yisrael Ba’Aliyah of legislators Roman Bronfman and Alexander Tzinker reduced the party’s Knesset representation from six to four, prompting some members of One Israel to say that Yisrael Ba’Aliyah will now have to content itself with one seat on the Cabinet.

And members of the Shas Party, which has 17 Knesset seats and is a member of the Barak coalition, said it is unthinkable that a party with only four seats receive two ministerial portfolios.

Shas officials are still smarting from having to turn over the powerful Interior Ministry to Sharansky.

Sharansky’s charges Monday against One Israel were promptly denied by Ramon and Knesset member Ephraim Sneh.

Bronfman also denied having cut any pre-government deals with Barak’s One Israel bloc.

Barak’s government, which was sworn in last week, includes seven political parties representing 75 of the Knesset’s 120 legislators.

Commentators are now noting that while Barak succeeded in cobbling together the broad-based coalition he sought, its diversity — including political doves and Jewish settlement advocates, as well as religious and secular parties — has resulted in numerous fault lines that will inevitably come under strain.

Indeed, there are now reports that Yisrael Ba’Aliyah is threatening to withdraw from the governing coalition if it does not receive an additional Cabinet ministry.

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