Barak 224 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Labor Party will make every effort to form a national unity government with Kadima's new leader, Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Tuesday.
"Two hours ago the Likud chairman announced he and his party would not join a unity government. This is a pity and a real loss," Barak said at a Rosh Hashana toast held at Labor headquarters in Tel Aviv. "During these times, an emergency unity government is what Israel needs; this is not an empty slogan but a real national necessity."
"I was glad to hear Livni saying she would like to put together a broad-based government, just after President Peres appointed her to try and form the next government," Barak said.
He promised to exhaust all possibilities to reach this goal.
"If we reach true partnership it will be good, but if not, the Labor Party does not fear general elections. Sitting in the government is not an end in itself; our purpose there is to achieve essential national goals," he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Livni met with Shas chairman Eli Yishai to discuss his party's conditions for joining the government.
Yishai conditioned possible cooperation with Kadima on taking the issue of dividing Jerusalem off the table in the peace talks with the Palestinians.
He also demanded that resources be allocated to help young couples buy homes and some NIS 1 billion to increase the monthly child allowances.
Livni and Yishai agreed to establish a joint task force to evaluate Shas's demands.
Meanwhile, those eyeing new government assignments have been making their wishes known.
Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balilla said she would like the Transportation portfolio while Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit both said they want the Finance Ministry.
Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines would like to push Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann out of his chair and take his portfolio.
Party leader Barak has equivocated on this, saying he will not necessarily demand Friedmann's head, but also refusing to rule out the possibility that Labor might demand the justice portfolio in an attempt to boot Friedmann out of the post.
Also Tuesday, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz hinted via close associates that he might reverse his decision to take a "time-out" from politics - if he were made foreign minister in the next government.
At the same time, his supporters, at least, have not despaired of challenging Livni's very narrow primary win on September 17. MK Ze'ev Elkin is scheduled to arrive at the Kadima Court Wednesday for a hearing on the appeal he has filed against the primary results, which gave Livni the party chairmanship over Mofaz by a mere 431 votes.