Pressure mounting for unity government

Sources say Netanyahu believes it would strengthen Israel's position if a unity gov't was formed ahead of the UN General Assembly vote.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 30, 2011 21:57
2 minute read.
The Knesset adjourning for its spring break.

Knesset session 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both issued calls on Monday for Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to join the coalition, but a national-unity government does not appear likely any time soon.

Sources close to Netanyahu said he believes it would strengthen Israel’s position if a unity government was formed ahead of an expected UN General Assembly vote on a Palestinian state in September.

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They said that after Netanyahu spoke about keeping settlements blocs and hinted that other settlements would not remain part of Israel, there was less reason for Kadima to remain in the opposition.

“It’s important to unite Israelis and the American people around consensus issues,” Netanyahu told the Likud faction.

“This is the time for unity not just in the party but in the Knesset and the nation. We agree on the most important things, and this is the time to unite around the consensus.

This is always true but especially when the future of the Middle East is so unclear. We need to take advantage of our strength and unity to ensure our security and enable us to achieve true peace with our neighbors.”

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Netanyahu’s No. 2 in the Likud, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, told the faction that if the Palestinians formed a unity government, Israel should too. Barak also pushed for unity in a meeting of his Independence faction.

“The complexity of September has not disappeared or evaporated,” Barak said. “It is important to deal correctly with the tsunami in September.

There is no doubt we would have more power to tackle the tsunami ahead when we are unified and we find a way to join hands to deal with the challenges.”

Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said he did not believe a unity government would be formed, because Livni was not interested. Kadima officials responded that they did not see a unity government happening and that “Netanyahu knows how to find us if he wants to.”

Likud hawk MK Danny Danon said the prime minister should bring in the hardright National Union instead.

Likud lawmakers praised Netanyahu in the meeting for defending Israel against US President Barack Obama at the White House.

“It took courage to stand up to the president,” said Ministerwithout- Portfolio Bennie Begin, who called for building without limitations throughout Judea and Samaria. He said there was no reason to limit building when there was no chance to renew diplomatic talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu thanked the faction for its support, especially hawks who did not agree with everything he said to Congress.

He hinted that Obama was responsible for the diplomatic stalemate, and not his own policies.

“We are in a complex diplomatic situation, and it is not because of anything the Likud government did,” the prime minister said. “But over the past week there has been a change that was not necessarily bad for us.”

When MKs joked with Netanyahu that he should seek the Republican nomination for US president, he responded that he made a point of being bipartisan and meeting with both the Democratic and Republic Jewish coalitions in Washington. He joked that Danon, who is close to Republican leaders, should run in his stead.

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