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|Thursday, June 22, 2000, updated at 13:57(GMT+8)|
Israel's Meretz Party Quits CoalitionIsrael's leftist party Meretz decided Wednesday to quit Prime Minister Ehud Barak's coalition government in what it called an effort to further Barak's peacemaking with the Palestinians.
Three Meretz cabinet ministers will tender their resignations to Barak later on Wednesday after the party's 10 Knesset (parliament) members met and made the decision earlier, according to Israel Television.
Meretz's decision may improve Barak's chances to save his floundering government from a deepening crisis caused by defection of the biggest coalition partner, the ultra-orthodox Shas party, which demanded more funds for its ill-managed school system and legalization of its radio stations.
Shas, which has 17 seats in the 120-member Knesset, quit Barak's government on Tuesday. It has blamed Meretz leader Yossi Sarid, the education minister, for refusing its demands for funding and control of the religious school system.
Its departure leaves Barak's coalition with a minority in the Knesset after 11 months in power. Barak's representatives and Shas leaders were negotiating a compromise, in an attempt to keep a fine-tuned government before Tuesday's resignations of four Shas ministers take effect 48 hours later on Thursday.
Meretz, the secular, left-wing party with 10 seats in the Knesset, said its withdrawal from the government was in the interests of furthering Barak's peacemaking with the Palestinians.
Its leader Yossi Sarid said that Meretz will support the peace process, whether it is inside or outside the coalition.
The government crisis broke out at a critical juncture, as Israel and the Palestinians were trying to resolve the thorniest issues at the core of their conflict: Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements, borders and water.
Shas raised its demands Tuesday for more involvement in decision-making in peace talks, and voiced its opposition to more West Bank land transfer to the Palestinians.
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