Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's attempt to form a government of national unity with the nationalist rightwing headed by Ariel Sharon is not without precedent in the 52 years of existence of the state of Israel.
The first government of national unity was formed on the eve of the six-day war of June 1967, against a backdrop of drama and crisis.
The Labor party, which had predominated since the creation of the state in 1948, linked up for the first time to share power with the leader of the rightwing opposition, Menachem Begin, but did not give him any position of responsibility.
That government of national unity lasted until the right pulled out in 1970, over the agreement to have a ceasefire with Egypt.
It then took 14 years for right and left to come together again in a new cabinet of national unity, after neither side managed an absolute majority in the elections of July 1984.
Israel then adopted a virtually unique system of rotation: Labor leader Shimon Peres led the country for two years, before handing over in 1986 to right-winger Yitzhak Shamir.
The government of national unity continued after the parliamentary elections of 1988, which were won by the right. But this time round, the position of prime minister was taken squarely by Shamir, while Labor leader Yitzhak Rabin took the defense portfolio.
In 1990, the arrangement collapsed and the Labor party went into opposition, returning to power in elections in 1992 – JERUSALEM (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)