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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski [file])
Even as a narrow, right-wing coalition appeared to be taking shape, a senior Kadima official confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night that Kadima and the Likud had renewed discussions on a possible national unity government.
The latest round of talks between the two largest parties were initially brokered by Likud negotiation team chief MK Gideon Sa'ar and Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi, but sources in the parties said that subsequently, Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni held direct talks.
Netanyahu and Livni have reportedly already held one meeting together, and more are likely.
Livni was willing to compromise on the issue of a rotation for the premiership, with Netanyahu serving for three years in the top spot, and Livni completing the final 21 months of the scheduled term, Kadima officials said.
Livni is reportedly insisting on managing foreign policy if she joins the next government, with Kadima being allowed freedom of action on the international stage.
On Sunday, the Likud and Israel Beiteinu are set to renew their coalition talks, which were believed to be close to conclusion on Thursday evening.
Should a broad coalition be formed, Israel Beiteinu would likely be forced to give up some of the five ministries it has been offered, including the Foreign Ministry, and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio on Sunday that "no portfolio will be an obstacle" to his party joining such a government, indicating that he would be willing to let Livni have the Foreign Ministry.
He hinted that Likud and Israel Beiteinu would be vital in solving the conflict with the Palestinians, saying that Kadima should acknowledge that without the two parties it had "gone ahead with the Annapolis process and the Gaza disengagement" and "not got anywhere."
The Israel Beiteinu chairman also noted that Kadima had in the past voted against changes to the electoral system, which his party was pushing for.
Lieberman said his party intended to sign a coalition deal with Netnayhu's party. He stressed that the country needed a stable government as soon as possible, calling the current situation in which a transitional government continued to be in power "irresponsible."
Similarly, on Saturday night, in wake of the reports on talks between Kadima and the Likud, Israel Beiteinu officials said that the party would not object to such a government, and that it has "always supported a broad coalition."
Word of the renewed talks between Kadima and the Likud followed Friday afternoon's announcement that Likud and the National Union had reached a coalition agreement including an understanding that full funding for yeshivas would be included in the state budget.
"In the course of the election campaign we understood that this is a crucial demand, to stop the need for bartering and monthly lobbying in the Torah world," explained National Union chairman Ya'acov Katz.
"Budgeting the world of Torah officially will prevent the embarrassing phenomenon in which yeshiva heads must beg every year for government funds," he said.
Katz requested that his party be given the Construction and Housing Ministry, though it isn't clear this request could be fulfilled, since this portfolio had already been promised to Shas.
The National Union also asked that their would-be partners, Habayit Hayehudi, get the Education portfolio - a ministry that Netanyahu has said on a number of occasions will remain in the hands of the Likud.
Habayit Hayehudi and the National Union had considered entering coalition negotiations as a unified body, but the former ultimately decided to negotiate separately.