Israeli center-right Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday evening met with Foreign Minister and centrist Kadima party chairwoman Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem for talks on forming the coalition government, local daily Ha’aretz reported.
Israeli center-right Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Israeli Foreign Minister and centrist Kadima party chairwoman Tzipi Livni for talks on forming the coalition government in Jerusalem, Feb. 22, 2009.(Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
During the meeting, Netanyahu, who has been assigned the task of forming Israel’s next coalition government, was expected to try to convince Livni to join a coalition under his leadership, said Ha’aretz.
Israeli political establishment assessed that Netanyahu would offer Livni “full partnership” in such a coalition, including cooperative wording of the Basic Law, as well as three top ministerial portfolios — defense, foreign affairs and finance.
Livni said Sunday before the talks that her Kadima party was unwilling to compromise on its path for peace just to join the coalition.
“The choice is between the advancement and actualization of a vision for two states for two peoples or losing our path in this realm,” she was quoted by Ha’aretz as telling Kadima members.
“If we compromise in order to be partners in a government which has a path that is not our path, it will be betraying the confidence of voters,” said the Kadima leader.
In a statement released following the faction meeting, Kadima lawmakers said acceptance of the party’s centrist policies on peace and domestic issues was “a condition for (the party) joining any unity government.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu warned on Sunday that he would not be bullied into forming a unity government.
“Unity can be achieved by dialogue, not by dictates, not by arm-wrestling,” said the Likud leader. “That’s what we will do today –we’ll begin the effort to join hands, first with Kadima, and tomorrow with the Labor Party.”
Earlier on Sunday, during the weekly cabinet meeting, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urged Netanyahu to form a coalition government fast, calling on Knesset (parliament) factions to mount coalition negotiations as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Olmert also praised Israeli President Shimon Peres’ decision to task Netanyahu with forming the new government, saying that Israel needs a strong and stable government in order to contend with the challenges it faces.
On Friday, Peres officially entrusted Netanyahu with the task of building a coalition, ten days after the parliamentary election.
Netanyahu, who was previously the 9th prime minister of Israel from June 1996 to July 1999, would then have 42 days to forge a coalition cabinet. Until the new government is formed, Olmert, who was forced to resign amid a corruption scandal, will remain in office as caretaker prime minister.