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The Man and the Issues   |   Live Chat   |   Message Board

Netanyahu's Delicate Coalition

Netanyahu addresses Israeli cabinet

(CNN) -- Nowhere is Israel's precarious internal balance of power more apparent than in the warring and fractious coalition of right-wing and religious parties that make up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government.

The coalition, whose centerpiece is Netanyahu's Likud party, is not unlike Israel itself: a melting pot of religious and secular beliefs. And the prime minister's political future depends on his ability to maintain members' support, given their differing views on the peace process and other issues.

When Foreign Minister David Levy resigned in January, taking his five-member Gesher faction with him, the multi-party coalition was left controlling only 61 of the Knesset's 120 seats.

The fact is, Netanyahu is faced with a balancing act, and sometimes makes conflicting promises to please coalition members.

For example, he promised his Orthodox partners he will pass legislation ensuring the exclusive right of Orthodox rabbis to perform Jewish conversions. But he also has assured his non-Orthodox partners the legislation will not be passed.

Netanyahu may have a strong ally in a new constitutional provision designed to keep the government intact.

In the past, an Israeli prime minister could be voted out of office without the Knesset necessarily being dissolved. Now, however, a majority vote of no-confidence in the government not only sinks the prime minister but the Knesset as well.

This provision could make lawmakers pause, lest they vote themselves out of office over internal wranglings.

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