livni sultry head on hands 224 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Kadima has made its final offer to Shas, prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni said Thursday evening, adding that she would tell the president on Sunday whether she would be bringing a government to the Knesset for approval or giving up on her coalition talks and sending the country toward general elections.
"The time has come. I have spoken to President Shimon Peres and told him I'll reach a conclusion by Sunday: general elections or negotiations," Livni said.
Livni made the remarks at a Kadima meeting held in the party's Petah Tikva headquarters, where participants were updated on the progress in the coalition negotiations, including talks with Shas that continued on Thursday evening.
"Kadima's negotiating team feels it has exhausted the possibilities. We can continue talking, but we won't be able to offer any more than we already have to Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Gil [Pensioners Party]," Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi, who coordinates the talks, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday evening. "We feel the offers we have made are balanced and fair, despite the disappointment the Gil Party and UTJ might feel."
All three of those potential coalition partners on Thursday expressed various levels of dissatisfaction with the offers they were receiving from Kadima.
Prior to the Kadima party meeting, Livni met with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz once again. They had met on Wednesday in an attempt to clarify Mofaz's intentions in holding independent talks with Shas's leadership.
Earlier Thursday, a senior Shas source told the Post the party wouldn't join Livni's government without a significant "achievement," such as the promise of an additional NIS 600-700 monthly allocation to families with more than four children.
Sources close to Livni released statements Thursday claiming that Shas's rejection of a Kadima offer of almost NIS 1 billion in child allowances showed that Shas had no real intention of joining Livni's government.
Livni emphasized that this was her final offer to Shas and said she would decide over the weekend whether to go to general elections or bring a narrow government, consisting of Kadima, Labor and Meretz and leaning on the support of the Arab parties, to the Knesset for approval on Monday.
"Livni's negotiators offered us mainly cancellations of future cutbacks," said a Shas party source. "This isn't an achievement in the eyes of our public because they don't know about a cutback that hasn't been imposed yet."
He said the moment of truth for a coalition would come overnight Thursday or early Friday, when the results of Thursday evening's negotiations between the two sides were presented to Shas chairman Eli Yishai and spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Meanwhile, sources close to Livni hinted that Shas and Likud had already reached an understanding regarding future cooperation if Livni failed to form a government and Likud were to win in general elections.
It was implied that Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu had promised Shas he would reverse the decision to cancel child allotments he had made as finance minister, a suggestion the Likud emphatically denied.
"Kadima's spins used to be much more sophisticated," a source close to Netanyahu told the Post. He added that Netanyahu and Shas were in constant contact, but that no negotiations had been or would be conducted unless Netanyahu was elected and had the mandate to conduct them. "When he was finance minister, Netanyahu performed some unpopular moves that hurt him politically but saved the Israeli economy," the source added.
But Shas isn't Livni's only problem, and the chances of her forming a broad-based coalition seemed to be drifting away from her as the Gil Pensioners Party announced Thursday evening the cancellation of a scheduled meeting with Kadima's negotiating team.
"We sat down with Kadima's negotiators and set out the issues we believe we are entitled to get answers on, and in response we received a paper that ignored all of our demands," Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan told the Post. "We said, 'Thanks a lot,' and that we'll [only] be sitting together when they have answers for us.
"Gil has nothing to do in the opposition, but we are willing to be there. The pensioners in Israel must have a non-political party to represent them in the Knesset, because otherwise no other party would help them and their condition would only deteriorate," Eitan said.
He added that a narrow government would mean general elections soon in any case, because no laws could be passed in the Knesset by a government which numbered only 60 MKs, and that therefore he would vote against such a coalition if it were brought to a Knesset vote on Monday.
UTJ chairman MK Avraham Ravitz, who met with Livni's team again on Thursday, also left his meeting unsatisfied with the offer his party had received.
"UTJ is divided regarding going to general elections; Degel HaTorah doesn't want it, and Agudat Israel thinks it's the right decision," Ravitz told the Post.
Nevertheless, not everybody was disappointed by negotiations with Kadima. Meretz chairman MK Haim Oron stated early Thursday that his party was willing to join Livni's government.
"The question now is not whether Meretz will join Livni's government, but rather whether a government will be formed. If one is, most likely Meretz will join it," Oron said.
Finally, Kadima MKs were unanimous in their support for the suggestion made by Minister of Development of the Negev and the Galilee Ya'acov Edri that the party express its support for the negotiation team and Livni in their efforts to form a government.
MK Yoel Hasson added that Kadima would respect and assist any decision made.
MK Gideon Sa'ar, the head of the Knesset's Likud faction, said in response to Livni's remarks that "so far, all Livni has accomplished is to prevent the people of Israel from deciding who will lead them in general elections."
"We hope that by Sunday, Livni understands the obvious: No stable, strong and functioning government capable of handling the serious challenges facing the State of Israel can come out of these negotiations. Such a government will be possible only after general elections."
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>