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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Barak, Labor to join Likud government?

Confidantes of Labor leader Ehud Barak expect increased pressure on him to join the Likud in forming a government and believe that at the end of the day Labor will join the government.
"In the next few days, Barak could say that at such a fateful time it would be irresponsible to allow Netanyahu to form a right-wing government that could endanger the country's future," a Barak confidant predicted on Saturday night.

"He is not ready to say it yet, but pressure will grow over the next few days. Reality will require us to join in the end, but meanwhile we have to play it cool."

Barak's associates stressed that he had not yet made a decision about whether to join the government, but they said that if he did decide to join, eight or nine Labor MKs would support him, perhaps even including MK Ophir Paz-Pines, one of the most vocal opponents of Labor entering a Netanyahu coalition.

One senior Labor official stressed over the weekend that serving as second fiddle in an opposition led by Kadima would render the already-dwindling party completely irrelevant.

"Our possibility is between quick suicide with Netanyahu or slow death with Livni," he said.

On the other side of the table, sources close to Netanyahu admitted that he preferred Labor to Kadima in his coalition all along, but that he had been aware it would be tough for Barak to persuade his party to join the government if it did not get at least 15 seats, and it won only 13.
Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff (like Barak) who is number 2 in Kadima is still hoping to force Tzipi Livni to form a negotiating team and negotiate with the Likud. But if Barak gets the defense ministry, this will likely take the wind out of Mofaz's sails.
Mofaz will push Livni to form such a team - or at least appoint a mediator - in Monday's Kadima faction meeting. His confidants said that Kadima ministers had finally realized since Livni turned down Netanyahu on Friday that this was their last chance to speak up and prevent the party from going to the opposition.

"What the Likud offered can certainly be a basis for talks," Mofaz said in closed conversations over the weekend. "The people want unity and before you slam the door on it, you have to at least check whether we can find common ground with the Likud."

Mofaz said over the weekend "he was convinced that the party will still join the coalition. Good sense will win out. The diplomatic issue was not an excuse to not join.

"Netanyahu will talk to the Palestinians and try to reach a deal with them. He knows that this is his last opportunity. When he gets to the White House and talks to Obama it will lead to him removing outposts.

"He knows he needs the world's support, because what matters most to Netanyahu is the Iranian threat," Mofaz added. "As long as he is willing to do that and to change the governmental system, there is no reason to stay out of the government."

Livni reportedly met with Mofaz and other members of Kadima who opposed the decision to go into the opposition, telling them that should Israel decide to attack Iran, Kadima would throw its support behind Netanyahu's administration.
You heard it here first. Barak will be defense minister. And he may even bring his party along with him.


At 9:00 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I beat you to it and posted it as an update under your Livni says "NO" post.

Bibi may have intended to string Livni all along since he and Barak have a mutual interest in common of undermining Kadima. And there's the Iran threat. It gives Barak an excuse to remain in the government and get some political credit for future military action against that country. And nine ministers is an offer particularly hard to turn down.

Mofaz hopes to gain back the leadership of Kadima and if he doesn't, he could still take a couple of MKs back with him into the Likud, making it the largest Knesset faction.

All the mid-sized parties support a two-state solution but as noted previously, its not in the cards and the reason Israelis want a national unity government is for it to deal with the most pressing threat Israel has ever faced, the nuclear threat from Iran.

So it looks like there could be a national unity government, just not with Kadima in the mix at this point in time.


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