As he did so, Arieh Deri, the leader of Shas, the party representing the ultra-orthodox Sephardic Jews, announced his resignation, to open the way for his party to join a new government. Mr Deri was sentenced last month to four years in prison for accepting $155,000 (pounds 98,000) in bribes, and Mr Barak had said he could not appoint him as a minister.
Ironically, Shas had a triumphant election, substantially increasing its representation in the Knesset. Although Mr Barak won an unprecedented victory, defeating Benjamin Netanyahu by 56 per cent to 44 per cent, he has to create an administration out of 15 parties, all of whom elected representatives. The resignation of Mr Deri may mean that Mr Barak is intending to include Shas, to allow him to broaden the base of his government.
Part of the key to Mr Barak's success was a secular reaction against the influence of the ultra-orthodox. This helped him to win critical votes from Russian immigrants, but also creates a problem for him in forming a government if he does not want to force all the ultra-orthodox parties into opposition.
Shas is the most obvious choice as a coalition partner because it has a moderate stance on territorial compromise over the West Bank and the Golan Heights, both of which were captured by Israel in 1967. The secular and left- wing parties are not in a mood to compromise because they represent anti-clerical constituents and did well in the election. Part of the crowd at Mr Barak's victory rally in Tel Aviv chanted "No to Shas".
Mr Barak now has 45 days to form a government. If he forms a narrowly based cabinet, with ministers from the centre-left, he might have difficulty carrying out a territorial withdrawal from the West Bank. But if he includes parties from the centre right, such as Likud, from which Mr Netanyahu has just resigned as leader, he may find that his administration is para- lysed by indecision.Reuse content