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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sharon Looks to Opposition for Coalition

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon looked set to reshape his government into a narrower coalition after defiant ultra-Orthodox allies refused to back an austerity package in a parliamentary vote Wednesday.

Parliament voted 65 to 26 for the emergency economic plan aimed at reining in a budget deficit swollen by falling tax revenues and higher defense spending stemming from a 20-month-old Palestinian uprising for independence.

The 17 members of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party whose opposition to the bill Monday sparked a political crisis were absent from the vote. Seven other lawmakers abstained.

Sharon ejected Shas and another ultra-Orthodox party from his coalition two days ago in a move that goes into effect after midnight Wednesday, leaving a short period for a last-minute change of heart.

But political sources said Sharon was adamant, and he appeared likely to enlist at least one opposition party, Shinui, which has six parliamentary members, into his government, giving it at least a six-seat cushion against any parliamentary bid to topple it.

The departure of Shas and United Torah Judaism, or UTJ, would leave him in control of just 60 of the 120 seats in parliament.

That would leave Sharon, who now controls 82 seats, just one vote from the risk of losing a no-confidence motion, which would bring down his broad-based coalition government and force new elections, a year before they were due to take place.