- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

JERUSALEM (AP) - The ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party says it has reached a coalition deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, bringing him closer to forming his government.

Shas initialed an agreement with Netanyahu’s Likud Party early Monday.

Last week, Netanyahu initialed a deal with the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu. So far he has reached agreements with parties that hold 53 of parliament’s 120 seats.

Netanyahu is also trying to bring in other religious parties and the dovish, 13-seat Labor, headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Labor is to vote on Tuesday whether to join the government.

Netanyahu has also tried to bring in Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party. However, she has declined because he hasn’t stated a commitment to negotiating the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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