Barak's Big Tent Gives Peace a Chance

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Peace is being given a chance. Israelís Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak drafted the ultra-Orthodox Shas party into his coalition late Wednesday, creating a government with sufficient votes to revive peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria. "Barak had a choice between bringing in Shas and bringing in Likud, and Shas is a better choice for accelerating the peace process," says TIME Jerusalem correspondent Lisa Beyer. "While Likud is politically right-wing, Shas is socially conservative but moderate on the peace process, and doesnít share Likudís objection to trading land for peace."

Barak will govern with a working coalition of around 75 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, and on peace issues heíll likely have the support of a further 10 Arab-Israeli votes. "With a coalition ranging from the right-wing National Religious Party to the ultra-dovish Meretz, most of the fights are going to be in Barakís own tent," says Beyer. "But he has assembled enough votes that even if the five-seat National Religious Party bolts, it canít bring down the government." So Israelis appear to have reached a working agreement among themselves on peace. The hard part will be doing the same with the Palestinians and Syrians.