1. ISRAEL ON WAY TO NEW GOVERNMENT…Israelis could well have a new government in time for the country’s Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday. Representatives of the largest party Qadima signed an agreement with the Labor Party on Thursday night, paving the way to the creation of a new cabinet, which will be headed by Ehud Olmert. Labor’s leader and former trade unionist ‘Amir Peretz will be the defense minister. The Media Line analysts say Peretz could be the first Israeli defense minister to recommend a budget cut to his own ministry, with the money going to fund social welfare.
2. ISRAEL, SWEDEN IN DIPLOMATIC TIFF…Israel has expressed its concern about two moves Sweden has made this week, seemingly out of step with thinking in the rest of Europe and in Washington with regard to the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Jerusalem has conveyed its displeasure with the Swedish decision to allow Hamas representatives to visit the country for a conference next month. Stockholm has also pulled out of a multinational military exercise because of Israel’s participation. Israel says it will object to Sweden playing a role in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
3. SAUDIS, INDONESIA IN MIDEAST PEACE INITIATIVE…The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have agreed to create a multinational body that will try to bridge the gap between the Palestinians and Israelis. The unspecific news broke during a visit to the Arabian kingdom by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono. He said the international grouping would work alongside the Quartet of Russia, the United Nations, European Union and United States, the backers of the peace Road Map. Yudhuyono believes the international community should offer aid to the Hamas-led government rather than alienate it.