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Labor ministers call for Kadima to join coalition
By GIL HOFFMAN
28/03/2010
Likud ministers to congratulate Netanyahu for standing up to Obama.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must immediately add Kadima to the coalition in order to heal the rift with US President Barack Obama and advance the peace process, Labor ministers told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.

Netanyahu and Labor chairman Ehud Barak will brief the ministers in their parties on Sunday morning about their visit to Washington and their reportedly difficult meetings with Obama and his advisers. They will hear for the first time official reports about what Obama’s demands of Israel were and how Netanyahu intends to respond to them.

In Labor’s weekly ministerial meeting, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman intend to suggest that the party officially call on Netanyahu to work to add Kadima to the coalition.

“Kadima must be in the government, because we have reached a dead end,” said Simhon, who is the minister closest to Barak and chairs Labor’s Knesset faction. “The government must have a wider basis to push negotiations forward. This is the feeling throughout the party. We are at the point where we have to start questioning our place in the coalition.”

Labor ministers said last month that the party would have to reconsider its place in the coalition if Netanyahu restarted construction in Judea and Samaria after the moratorium ends on September 25. But Obama reportedly has already demanded that the freeze be extended, which could expedite Labor’s decision.

“We don’t have to wait for September anymore,” Simhon said. “It’s happening now. We have been loyal partners and I don’t like issuing ultimatums, but it is getting harder to remain in this government when things are clearly worse now than they were when we joined. That requires us to make decisions.”

Braverman added that “in light of the deterioration in Israel’s relations with the US and the diplomatic stalemate, the prime minister must prove that he is serious about seeking peace and therefore, there is no choice but to add Kadima to the government.”

While neither Simhon nor Braverman called on Netanyahu to expel one of the right-wing parties from the coalition, Labor rebel MK Eitan Cabel said the entire coalition must be changed. He called for an urgent meeting of the Labor faction on the issue, but it is unlikely to happen before Pessah begins on Monday evening.

“The only way forward is to form a coalition that most of the country wants with Kadima, Likud and Labor,” Cabel said. “Any coalition with Israel Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism and Shas has no chance to improve things.”

Netanyahu’s associates have vigorously denied reports that he is considering changing the makeup of the coalition, while Kadima’s 28 lawmakers are divided on the matter. MK Otniel Schneller issued a statement calling for the party to join the coalition immediately, but MK Ronnie Bar-On downplayed the possibility at a party event.

“People are saying we should join the coalition to save the government,” Bar-On said. “But we don’t want to save the government.

“We want to save the country.”

Likud ministers intend to thank Netanyahu at Sunday’s Likud ministerial meeting for not caving into pressure from Obama.

“From what I understand, the prime minister didn’t give in to the unprecedented demands that would endanger Israel’s future, and I sincerely hope he continues with this line,” said the Likud’s only minister who lives in the West Bank, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, a resident of Neveh Daniel in Gush Etzion.
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