In the Israeli elections of last year, Ehud Barak became Prime Minister with fifty–six percent of the vote. By Israeli standards, this was a huge margin of victory. But the outcome of the Knesset elections was far less conclusive. His own One Israel list captured a paltry twenty–four seats out of one hundred and twenty, and the rest were distributed in a way that promised no majority of natural allies.
Barak therefore had to choose between two seemingly contradictory paths. The first led to a coalition of religious and communitarian parties, of which the largest was Shas. This coalition might support his policies on the peace process but would stymie serious efforts at constitutional and political reform.