Bibi nixes Ramon offer to join cabinet

Barak delays Labor's departure from coalition, praises Olmert; Poll: Netanyahu best PM on security.

September 23, 2007 00:48
3 minute read.
Bibi nixes Ramon offer to join cabinet

netanyahu 224 88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )


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There is no chance of the Likud joining a government that promotes an agenda of the radical Left, a source close to opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu said on Saturday night. Vice Premier Haim Ramon of Kadima raised the prospect of the Likud joining the government in an interview with Army Radio on Friday. But in the same interview, he reiterated that neighborhoods in east Jerusalem will have to eventually be handed over to the Palestinian Authority - a plan the Likud cannot accept. "The Likud will not be joining this government, period," the source said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's associates have been suggesting in recent weeks that Netanyahu would be welcome in his government. Ties between Olmert and Netanyahu have tightened recently, as evidenced by Olmert consulting with Netanyahu ahead of the reported IAF operation in Syria on September 6. "There is room to discuss Bibi [Netanyahu] joining," Ramon said in the interview. "The delusion that the Olmert government is nearing its end is over. Netanyahu could definitely be a part of the effort to make diplomatic progress and overcome difficulties." Ramon also said that the criticism of Netanyahu's statements on Wednesday about the alleged IAF raid in Syria was overblown. According to Ramon, Netanyahu's referral to the strike - which Israel has refused to confirm or deny - in an interview to Channel 1's Mabat evening news "didn't do any damage." "That he rushed to say it [could be] regrettable," Ramon said, "It would have been better if [he] hadn't, but the reaction was extreme." A Dahaf Institute poll published in Yediot Aharonot on Friday reported that nearly one in three Israelis believe that Netanyahu's statements damaged the state. The poll found that 43 percent of Israelis believed his statements did no damage, 31% feel they caused harm and 3% said they helped the country. Asked which prime minister would best keep the country secure, 30% said Netanyahu, 20% Labor chairman Ehud Barak, 14% Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman and just 8% opted for Olmert. According to the poll, if an election was held now, the Likud would win 24 seats, Labor 18, Kadima 10, Shas 10, Israel Beiteinu 10, billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak's Social Justice Party eight and the National Union-Israel Beiteinu six. Labor's support has fallen from 23 seats to 18 since the last Dahaf Institute poll taken on July 27. Meanwhile, Barak delayed his target date for Labor to leave the government, telling Ma'ariv on Friday that he expected the next election to take place in 2009. The defense minister gave his first interview with an Israeli media outlet since talking to Channel 2 after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War in July 2006. In Friday's interview, he praised the performance of Olmert and the government. "The events of the past weeks have strengthened the government's stability," Barak said. "I don't think the release of the [final] Winograd Report will be as soon as people thought. It could be that the report will come out in 2008. I will keep my word. I never said we would leave the government the day the report came out. I just said that if Olmert wouldn't reach the desired conclusion, we would begin contacts in the Knesset to form a new government or set a date for elections." The Labor chairman said that if the report came out in the first half of 2008, an election could still be held at the end of 2008, but he said it was more likely that the election would be held in 2009. He predicted that Olmert would remain the head of Kadima. Barak faced criticism for the comments from Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines, who received a promise from Barak that Labor would not remain in an Olmert-led government when Winograd came out. "I recommend he look at the Yediot poll that shows us losing five seats," Paz-Pines said. "Labor needs strategy and vision and shouldn't be dragged down by Kadima. That's supposed to be Barak's mission, but it's tough to do from where he is [in the Defense Ministry]."

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