Israeli PM Netanyahu 'Strikes Surprise Coalition Deal'

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a deal to form a new coalition cabinet, avoiding snap elections he sought earlier, Israeli media say.

Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Likud party meeting at parliament in Jerusalem

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a deal to form a new coalition cabinet, avoiding snap elections he sought earlier, Israeli media say.

They say that - in a surprise move - Mr Netanyahu's Likud party will be joined by the opposition Kadima party.

The move came as the parliament, the Knesset, debated its dissolution ahead of polls the PM wanted in September.

AP quoted the office of President Shimon Peres as saying he had been informed of the coalition agreement.

Tal Law

According to the media reports, Kadima would back Mr Netanyahu in return for changes to the so-called Tal Law, which allows ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students to defer military conscription.

It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in February.

Secularists say the Tal Law is unfair, but small religious parties - which are crucial to Mr Netanyahu's present coalition - want ultra-Orthodox youths to continue to be allowed to opt for religious study over military service.

The reported agreement also envisages that Kadima leader, Shaul Mofaz, would become deputy prime minister.

Mr Netanyahu's right-wing administration had been scheduled to remain in power until October 2013.

He earlier announced plans to bring elections forward after disagreements with a junior coalition partner.

Opinion polls suggest Likud could win at least a quarter of the Knesset's 120 seats if the elections were held in the autumn.

The polls are not very accurate or trustworthy in Israel but Benjamin Netanyahu is, by some stretch, the most popular politician, the BBC's Wyre Davies in Jerusalem reports.

Mr Netanyahu must be credited with leading one of the country's most stable governments of recent times, our correspondent says.

He says the main issues in any election would be, as ever, security, including now the threat from Iran, and relations with the Palestinians.