Netanyahu Fights Back

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JERUSALEM: Benjamin Netanyahu came out swinging a day after narrowly escaping indictment on fraud and breach of trust charges. Admitting he made a mistake in appointing the manifestly unqualified Roni Bar-On as Attorney General, Netanyahu moved quickly to consolidate his governing coalition, announcing that he will set up a committee to oversee future high-level appointments. The panel will be led by Finance Minister Dan Meridor and Trade Minister Natan Sharansky, two Cabinet members who reportedly had considered resigning over the scandal. The move should help Netanyahu preserve his fragile six-seat hold on power in the Knesset. Two centrist parties, the Third Way and Sharansky's Israel Be'Aliya, said Monday that they would remain, along with two Cabinet members from the Likud Party. Netanyahu can count on the loyalty of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party whose leader, Arieh Deri, was charged with extortion and fraud in the sole indictment of the scandal. While Netanyahu looks as if he may emerge from the scandal, U.S. officials are worried that his escape from indictment will make him even more dependent on the right-wing supporters who stood by him, making any negotiations with the Palestinians extremely difficult. All of which should put the already-moribund peace process, along with most of the business of Israeli government, on hold for quite a while.