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Netanyahu signs up another party as majority nears

INCOMING Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought a nationalist religious party into what is shaping up to be a hawkish coalition yesterday, taking a major step toward securing the majority he needs to form the government.

As Netanyahu wrapped up the deal with the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, he also launched formal talks with the centrist Labor Party in hopes of moderating his emerging government.

Adding Labor could provide stability and international credibility, but many Labor politicians oppose joining forces with him.

Netanyahu has been trying to put together a coalition since last month's election. His Likud Party captured 27 seats, forcing him to bring in partners to control a majority in the 120-seat parliament.

With Shas on board, a total of 53 politicians have agreed to enter the government's fold.

Netanyahu is still negotiating with four other parties.

Shas' spiritual leader is an octogenarian rabbi, Ovadiah Yosef, known as much for his sunglasses, turban and gold-embroidered robes as his sometimes outrageous statements.

Shas' presence would help cement the coalition's tilt the right.


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