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Israeli left-wing party to drop out of government to save it
From CNN's Jerrold Kessel
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The left-leaning Meretz Party, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's ruling coalition, announced on Wednesday that it would resign from the government in order to save it.
The Barak government is in danger of unraveling on Thursday if ministers from the ultra-orthodox Shas Party follow through with resignations they tendered on Tuesday. Such a move would pull their 17 members out of Barak's 68-member parliamentary coalition, now only barely a majority of the 120-member Knesset.
One of the stumbling blocks to keeping Shas in the government has been the party's opposition to Yossi Sarid, the head of the Meretz Party and the education minister in the Barak government.
Sarid said he and the nine other Meretz ministers would drop out of the coalition but would still support Barak and vote with him on any no-confidence vote in the Knesset.
He said that Meretz believes the peace process is at a crucial stage and bowing out of Barak's cabinet will allow the prime minister to continue negotiations on a peace plan.
The resignations were due to be tendered to the government Wednesday evening.
The exit of Meretz from the coalition could allow Shas ministers, who have been fighting with Sarid over the fate of their bankrupt school system, to reverse course and stay with Barak.
Whether they will or not remained uncertain.
Shas members have been attempting to get Barak to give them 25 million Israeli shekels (about U.S. $8 million) to save their schools. They have also said they want their pirate radio stations legalized.
Barak said Tuesday he wanted Shas to remain in his government and had made proposals that would take care of "90 percent" of Shas' concerns. He said he would not be coerced and it was up to Shas members whether they stay or leave.
If Shas reverses course and stays while Meretz leaves, Barak will have a minority government of 58 seats in the 120-member Knesset. However, with the promise of the 10 Meretz votes on any no-confidence measure, his government will be able to stay in office.
Barak coalition hangs in the balance as Shas threatens to leave
Knesset - The Israeli Parliament
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