- - Thursday, October 25, 2012

ISRAEL

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister announced Thursday that he is joining forces with his hard-line foreign minister in upcoming elections, instantly creating a hawkish new bloc that appears poised to lead the country.

The deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu makes the new ticket the clear front-runner in the January elections, giving the ultranationalist foreign minister, a staunch opponent of concessions to the Palestinians, a major say in any future peace efforts.

It also raises speculation that centrist opposition parties might be compelled to unite as well.

“We are facing great challenges, and this is the time to unite forces for the sake of Israel. Therefore Likud and Yisrael Beitenu will run together on the same ticket in the next elections,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a news conference.

“We are asking for a mandate from the public to lead Israel against security threats, above all preventing Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons and the struggle against terror,” he said.

Israelis vote for political parties, not individual candidates. The leader of the bloc with the most seats in the 120-member parliament usually serves as prime minister of a coalition government.

Likud has been leading in opinion polls, but the resurgent Labor Party has been making gains by criticizing the outgoing government’s record on economic and social issues.

Analysts suggested that Mr. Netanyahu took Thursday’s step to head off the possibility of a broad centrist bloc led by Labor.

Together with Yisrael Beitenu, Likud could control more than 40 parliamentary seats, based on recent polls, making it roughly twice as large as Labor.

But polls have suggested that even with a center-left alliance, Mr. Netanyahu’s bloc still would win.

Bulgaria

Bomber had five partners, minister says

SOFIA — Bulgaria’s interior minister says up to five people assisted a bomber who killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver in July.

In an interview for the 24 Chassa daily Thursday, Tsvetan Tsvetanov said “between three and five foreigners” were involved in the bombing plotted “outside Bulgaria over a period of a year and a half.” No arrests have been made. The bomber also died.

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