Netanyahu Forms New Gov't ahead of Obama Visit

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- While the world watched for the white smoke that would signal a new pope, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his new government this week.

The news comes six weeks after Israelis voted in general elections. Netanyahu's two main partners are political newcomers while his former allies, the ultra-Orthodox religious parties, are out.

"It's now an opportunity to make major changes," Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post political columnist, said.

Two factions of the coalition want changes in the law that allows the ultra-Orthodox to skip army service and live off the state. Their major concerns deal with the economy.

"I don't think there will be great differences because the three of them on economic affairs will all share the same attitude, one of which we have to have private enterprise," Leiblier said. "But at the same time we can't allow the very, very large monopolies to have undue influence."

Netanyahu's move comes just in time for President Barack Obama's visit to Israel next week.

Leibler said the variety in the new government could help convince the international community that Netanyahu speaks for the nation when it comes to the Middle East peace process.

They won't be able to point the finger and say this is the rightwing Likud party putting forward a viewpoint, which is not shared by the people. He'll be able to say hopefully that he's acting on behalf of the whole nation.

Leibler said Israelis are hoping for a successful visit with President Obama this month that will strengthen U.S.-Israeli ties.

"Every Israeli is hoping that President Obama will have a better understanding of what Israel is confronted with, that we want peace," Leibler said.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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