Olmert agrees to coalition deal

? The religious Shas party agreed Sunday to join a coalition led by Israel’s prime minister-designate, Ehud Olmert, and his centrist Kadima movement, apparently assuring Olmert a parliamentary majority.

The deal to bring Shas into the new government came after weeks of coalition haggling and was approved late Sunday by a panel of party religious elders. Shas, an Orthodox party, is made up heavily of Sephardic Jews.

The proposed Kadima-led government is still taking shape, with two other parties already on board and negotiations under way with at least one more.

Kadima’s main governing partner is the left-leaning Labor Party, which finished second in the March 28 elections. Kadima captured 29 of 120 seats

in the Israeli parliament, a weaker-than-expected showing that forced Olmert to reach out to a wide array of parties in order to assemble a majority government.

Labor won 19 seats. Also joining was the Pensioner’s Party, which won a surprising seven seats. Shas won 12 seats.