Labor: We achieved 100% of our goals

Kadima: The coalition deal is balanced; Livni and Barak expected to meet to finalize some outstanding issues.

October 14, 2008 23:54
3 minute read.
Labor: We achieved 100% of our goals

tzahi hanegbi 248 88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

It took 18-and-a-half hours of nonstop negotiations, but Kadima and Labor representatives managed to complete a new coalition deal minutes before Succot began on Monday evening. MK Tzahi Hanegbi of Kadima and former MK Efi Oshaya met at the latter's Tel Aviv office after Sunday night's Kadima council meeting. They sat down at 10 p.m. and did not get up until 4:30 p.m. the next day, when they initialed the deal. During that time, Hanegbi often updated Livni. Oshaya said that he never called Barak, but that Barak called him 40 times from the Negev, where he is vacationing with his wife. Labor officials deflected criticism from inside the party that they gave into Kadima on issues like equal footing for Barak with Livni at the head of the government, Barak heading Israel's negotiating team with Syria, firing Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and expanding the framework of the 2009 state budget. "We gave in on economic issues due to the international crisis, but I think that we achieved 100 percent of every goal we set for ourselves at the beginning of the process on diplomatic, political and procedural issues," a Labor official said. "The negotiations satisfied both sides and when both sides think they won, it's a sign the talks were successful. When you go into a partnership, it's important that both sides begin as winners." Kadima officials also said they were pleased, even though they would have preferred if the deal would have been finalized two weeks ago without as many headaches from Barak along the way. "The deal is balanced," a Kadima official involved in the talks said. "Labor can be satisfied. We gave them what they wanted on economic issues. The rest they knew they wouldn't get anyway, so we found ways to give them as close as possible to what they were looking for. We found common ground." Livni and Barak are expected to meet as early as Wednesday to finalize some outstanding issues. Livni still wants Barak to agree to give up the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee to allow United Torah Judaism to enter the coalition. She has guaranteed that current chairman Avishay Braverman would be given another respectable position. Barak wants additional representation on the judicial selection committee and a portfolio to be transferred from the Pensioners' Party to the breakaway Justice for Pensioners Party, whose three MKs are expected to sign a parliamentary partnership deal with Labor in upcoming days. According to the deal, Barak will be "deputy prime minister and the most senior minister after the prime minister." The deal makes clear that he would be even higher than the vice premier, a title expected to be given to defeated Kadima leadership candidate Shaul Mofaz. Livni will have to consult with Barak on all the key issues, whether diplomatic, judicial or political. If she decides to dissolve the Knesset and initiate an election, she will have to tell Barak in advance. A proposed health tax on homemakers will be canceled, college tuition will not rise, and NIS 150 million will be allocated to raise benefits for the elderly. Barak requested several clauses intended to strengthen his position inside his own party. For instance, he asked that he be given the sole right to fire his ministers without approval from Livni. He also asked for a clause requiring the government to pass a bill allowing the leader of a party who is not an MK, namely himself, to become the leader of the opposition in the Knesset. Barak's associates said he wanted the clause so he could be taken seriously if he threatens to take Labor out of the government. They said it also sends a message to Labor members that unlike the last time he quit the government and went into business, he is committed to remaining in politics and public service. Kadima officials said they were not concerned about the clause. "It's like a prenuptial agreement," a Kadima official said. "We had no problem giving Barak this clause, because he doesn't intend to use it and neither do we."

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