Olmert limits entrance to his coalition

Potential partners will have to accept the West Bank convergence plan.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
March 23, 2006 03:00
3 minute read.
kadima meeting 298.88 ap

kadima meeting 298.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert severely curtailed his chances of forming a new coalition on Wednesday, when he told Channel 10 that parties would have to accept his West Bank convergence plan to be included in a Kadima-led coalition. The plan, which he revealed in an interview with The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago, calls for removing isolated West Bank settlements and converging them into settlement blocs. "Whoever is not ready to be a part of our convergence plan, of our new diplomatic agenda, cannot be part of the coalition," Olmert said. "There will be no rebels. I will not permit a coalition system with rebels that ruin it from the inside." The only parties which would agree to adopt Olmert's plan are Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties. Other prospective coalition partners, like Israel Beiteinu, Shas and United Torah Judaism, would have a tough time accepting such a condition. Following the interview, Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar, who heads the party's public relations team, called upon the three parties not to join an Olmert-led government. "It is forbidden to allow these parties to take votes from the Right and create a left-wing government," Sa'ar said. Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman dismissed Olmert's remarks, calling them the kind of statements that one made prior to the elections. Afterward, he said, Olmert would be more amenable to negotiations when faced with the reality of forming a coalition. "Speak to him five days after the elections and there will be a different tune in the Kadima office," Lieberman told Channel 10. Lieberman has said repeatedly said he was not ruling out any Zionist parties when it came to coalition partners. "We are open to negotiations with anyone who sees us as a coalition partner," he said. Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post that he believed that following such negotiations, Kadima was likely to accept his plan which calls for territorial and population exchange between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under the auspices of an international agreement. "If there will be serious negotiations, I think they can adopt my plan. In any case, you know, no one can take 70 seats without allies," he said. "I am not sure that their plan is the right plan," Lieberman said. "If I will be part of the next coalition I would also want to discuss our plan; I think our plan is better than Kadima's plan. I can not understand what could be achieved from Kadima's plan." Lieberman said that his ideal government would be the one that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed when he first entered office in 2003. "I was a part of it and Ehud Olmert and Benny Elon. This principle of the Sharon government of 2003 can be a very good solution," said Lieberman. NU-NRP leader Benny Elon told The Jerusalem Post he could not support Olmert's plan. But he warned that both Shas and Israel Beiteinu would agree to it at the end of the day, if voters failed to support a right- wing bloc. If such a right-wing bloc could be formed, he said, he believed that Israel Beiteinu and Shas would be a part of it. Otherwise, he said, they will make a deal with Kadima. Shas chairman Eli Yishai said his party prefers no additional disengagements. He added that Olmert's declarations are characteristic of the campaign season, but Shas is waiting to see what the people want as reflected in the election results. After the election, Shas will decide what to do. Yishai has previously said that Shas supports territorial compromise within the framework of a peace agreement with the Palestinians and called belief in Greater Israel anachronistic. United Torah Judaism spokesman Menahem Geshayed said that every decision is made by the party's Council of Torah Sages. "Whatever they tell us to do, we will do," he said. Matthew Wagner and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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