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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 11:30 GMT
Sharon's fractious coalition
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon's coalition may contain the seeds of its own disintegration
By BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has put together the largest government in Israeli history, made up of 27 ministers and about 15 deputy ministers.

But the government is a fractious collection of left, right, ultra-nationalist and religious parties.

With its variety, analysts are saying the new cabinet may contain the seeds of its own destruction, even though they have the loyalty of 70 members of the 120-seat Knesset - a seemingly solid parliamentary majority.

The government will certainly be prone to deadlock on many issues, and the continual threats of parties to pull out of the coalition if their specific concerns are not met - the bane of the last two governments.

Apart from the priority of holding his government together, Mr Sharon will be judged in the short term on his ability to end the Palestinian uprising and bring security to the Israelis - his chief election promise.

Even this will be a divisive issue in the new cabinet.

The centre parties will want to see peace return in co-operation with the Palestinian authority, while some of the ultra-nationalists in the cabinet are calling for the re-occupation of Palestinian areas as a way to end the violence.

Mr Sharon has also promised to get back to the negotiating table once the violence is over. The personnel in his government have vastly divergent views on how the peace process should be pursued.

Likud Party

Likud has appointed its own members to the ministries of finance, education, justice, internal security, communications, immigration and absorption, and environment, as well as having two ministers without portfolio.

Mr Sharon is expected to be minister of immigration and absorption, as well as prime minister.

Centre-right parties

Shas, an important and disruptive party in the previous two governments, has been awarded five ministries: religious affairs, interior, Jerusalem affairs, health and social affairs.

Yisrael Ba'aliya, the immigrants' party led by former Russian dissident Natan Sharansky, is being given the construction and housing portfolio, a deputy premiership, and the deputy-minister at the ministry of immigration and absorption.


Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) and National Union, two ultra-nationalist parties, have agreed terms with Likud on joining the coalition.

Rehavam Ze'evi
There's a place for ultra-nationalist Rehavam Ze'evi in the government
Rehavam Ze'evi's National Union has accepted the tourism portfolio. Mr Ze'evi recently suggested that the Israel could bring an end to the current Palestinian uprising by re-occupying some Palestinian controlled areas.

He is ironically nicknamed "Gandhi" because of his strongly militaristic views.

Avigdor Leiberman, of Israel Beitenu, will be minister of infrastructure. Mr Lieberman has made waves by calling for Israel to attack Egypt, as well as Iran, in case of a regional conflict.

National Religious Party

For the first time, there is no room in a Likud-led coalition for the National Religious Party. The leadership of the NRP appears to have been insulted by being offered only the housing portfolio, a ministry without portfolio or two deputy-ministers in education and religious affairs.

Labour Party

The Labour Party's former Prime Minister Shimon Peres has been offered and accepted the posts of foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

Druze member of the Knesset Salah Tarif,
Salah Tarif becomes the first Arab to join the Israeli cabinet
Ephraim Sneh, the out-going deputy defence minister becomes transport minister under Mr Sharon.

The ministry of defence goes to Binyamin Ben Eleizer, and the ministry of agriculture to Shalom Simhon.

The Labour party also gets the ministries of science, sports and culture and trade and industry.

There are also two Labour members joining the new government as ministers without portfolio: Salah Tarif, a Druze member of parliament who will become the first Arab to sit on an Israeli cabinet, and Labour party Secretary-General Raanan Cohen.

Centre-left parties

Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, daughter of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, will join the government as deputy defence minister.

Dalia Rabin-Pelossof
Dalia Rabin-Pelossof joins Sharon's cabinet as a deputy minister
She will be the first woman to fill the post. Mrs Rabin-Pelossof is the single Knesset member representing the New Way Party.

The One Nation party, formed in 1999 to represent Israel's working class, joins Mr Sharon's coalition. Shmuel Avital gets a ministry without portfolio.

The Prime Minister's Office:

In an unusual move, Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon has decided to do without a complete clear-out at the Prime Minister's Office, and has invited several of Ehud Barak's aides to remain in office.

According to a leading Israeli newspaper, Yedior Aharonot, those who worked for Mr Barak and being asked to stay on are:

  • Eli Aram, deputy director of the prime minister's Office
  • Gilad Dowek, senior aide to the prime minister's Office
  • Barry Holzman, head of the co-ordination monitoring division
  • Yair Kohen, economic adviser

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