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16 Feb 2009 07:59
As Israeli leaders tried to break out of their political deadlock on Sunday, a senior figure in Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party said they would not join an extreme right-wing government led by their rival Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kadima won Tuesday’s elections by a single seat but is struggling to form a majority coalition that would see Livni become only the second female prime minister in Israel’s history. Most analysts expect Netanyahu, leader of the second-placed Likud, to eventually emerge as the country’s next leader, although there are still days of tough negotiations ahead.
“We won the battle, but lost the war,” one Kadima minister was reported as saying.
Netanyahu is thought to want to form a broad coalition that includes Kadima, rather than rely on right-wing parties who would oppose any peace moves with the Palestinians, bringing confrontation with Washington.
Reports said Netanyahu might offer Livni the job of foreign minister and her deputy, Shaul Mofaz, the post of defence minister.
Meir Sheetrit, the current interior minister, made it clear on Sunday that Kadima would not submit easily.
“We will join a Netanyahu government only if it is not an extreme right-wing government,” he told Army radio. “It seems most likely that the government to be formed will be an extremist religious coalition led by Netanyahu. If a government like this is established I anticipate it will have a very hard life, and the lives of Israel’s citizens will be even harder. With all due respect to Netanyahu, he cannot manage a government like that. He will have trouble in every realm.”
Livni said she was still working on a coalition that she could lead, but added she would not pay “an exorbitant price” to have other parties join her. “I can also put together a coalition that is united around the peace process,” she said. “Netanyahu doesn’t want that, and couldn’t do it even if he did, with his right-wing partners.”
Livni failed last year in her first attempt to put together a majority coalition, which would have seen her replace Ehud Olmert as prime minister following his decision to stand down. Now she is heavily reliant on wooing the far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Our Home party came third, buoyed by its anti-Arab stance. Lieberman wants the country’s 20% Arab minority to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state or lose their citizenship.
Livni has reportedly offered to adopt some of his policies on civil marriage and on creating a presidential style of government. But Netanyahu, who also needs Lieberman’s support, has reportedly offered him the job of finance minister.
Lieberman met both Livni and Netanyahu on Wednesday, but has not said in public who he will back. “I know exactly who I will recommend to the president, but I am not telling because it is too early,” he said on Sunday.
Final results from the election were announced on Sunday night, but the results will not be formally published until next Wednesday, when the president, Shimon Peres, will consult with all party leaders and then choose one person to form a majority coalition. - guardian.co.uk
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