Peres entrusts Livni with forming gov't

New Kadima leader begins coalition-building efforts, says preference is national unity gov't with Likud.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
September 22, 2008 10:55
Peres entrusts Livni with forming gov't

livni peres hand shake 224. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will begin efforts to form a new government on Tuesday via direct and indirect negotiations with potential coalition partners following President Shimon Peres's formal appointment of her to compose a new coalition Monday night. Livni was inspired by Peres, who met with the 13 faction heads in less than 24 hours. While she doesn't intend to go at the same pace, she pledged in her acceptance speech at Beit Hanassi to form a government as soon as possible. "We need to work as fast as possible to end the uncertainty that has stretched on for way too long," Livni said. "We have more in common than what divides us. Such a government can make needed reforms and restore people's faith in their elected officials." Livni called on all the political parties represented in the Knesset to put their differences aside and to join in a national unity government for the common good. She made particular mention of Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu and did not forget to credit Labor for starting the process that led to the resignation on Sunday of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and to her election as head of the party. Praising Olmert, Livni said that she appreciated that he had taken the difficult step of resigning, and had "acted in a respectful and statesmanlike way." Livni said her first preference would be to form a national unity government with the Likud, followed by the current coalition, and that her last resort would be to initiate an election, which she would do only if the price of forming a new government was too great for the public to bear. Reaching out to Labor chairman Ehud Barak, who has expressed fears that she would initiate an election soon after forming a government, Livni called Labor a "senior partner" and said she hoped to form "a government that will serve to the end of the current term," in November 2010. Following a successful meeting between Livni and Barak Sunday night, they are expected to meet again as early as Tuesday. Barak's confidant, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, expressed confidence that a deal on a new government could be reached within a day. Barak called Livni to congratulate her after her speech at Beit Hanassi. In a sign that he is warming up to the idea of serving under her, Barak said in a speech to Na'amat that "perhaps there will soon be a female head of the executive branch." Peres told Livni privately and then reiterated publicly that it had been relatively easy to put this new onus of responsibility on her because no other MK had been nominated by any of the 13 parties with which he had conferred since Olmert's resignation the previous evening. Peres started his second round of meetings at 8:15 a.m. on Monday. First in line was Israel Beiteinu. Faction chairman Robert Ilatuv spoke to reporters and told them that his party did not see anyone in the current coalition as capable of forming a new government. "Today, it's important to get a new mandate from the people," he said. Israel Beiteinu didn't believe that any coalition formed under the new status quo would last, and had therefore recommended national elections to prevent further political turmoil, he said. NU-NRP MK Uri Ariel, speaking on behalf of the party, said his party also favored direct elections and did not think that the method currently being employed was the right way to elect a prime minister. Meretz's Haim Oron and Zehava Gal-on, while recommending Livni, said that this did not necessarily indicate that Meretz would join the coalition. "It's too early yet. We'll have to discuss it," said Gal-on. "If she can't form a government we'll recommend going to elections," said Oron. Oron said it was important to his party that the reforms Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann proposed to the court system not be implemented. He also stressed the importance of continuing negotiations with the Palestinians and with Syria. The Gil Pensioners Party, represented by Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri and Yitzhak Galanti, endorsed Livni and said that Gil would remain in the coalition providing that the agreements under which Gil entered the coalition remain in place. The Gil Party recommended that Livni form the next government, which it said it would join if the coalition maintained the same makeup as the previous one. Galanti warned, however, that his party would not join a coalition that included that Justice for the Elderly breakaway party, headed by former Gil MK Moshe Sharoni. The three members of the Justice for the Elderly Party said that they would not recommend anyone. The United Arab List also said it had not recommended a candidate as they were "committed to principles, not to personalities." "We do not see that we can recommend anyone," said UAL MK Taleb a-Sanaa. "We have not heard anything from Tzipi Livni about improving the socioeconomic situation of the Arab sector. We are not disqualifying her, we want to see her agenda." "If she wants to bring back child allowances and proceed with the negotiations with Syria we will see this as a positive sign and will make our decisions accordingly," he explained. Similarly, Balad MK Wasal Taha said his party hadn't recommended any candidates to Peres because "the situation, without a defined strategy is not clear." In a conversation with the president, the Balad delegation spoke about peace and equality for the Arab sector, and also raised the issue of Arab prisoners who have been incarcerated for more than 20 years without any sentence reduction. Hadash, like the other Arab parties, refrained from nominating a candidate for prime minister, presenting the same reasons - lack of a basic agenda and the continued inequality of Arab population. The United Torah Judaism (UTJ) Party, the last of 13 parties to meet with Peres, had initially been reluctant to accept the invitation. Eventually, UTJ delegates arrived Monday evening to tell the president the party didn't recommend anyone. MK Yaakov Litzman told reporters the delegates had met with Livni and raised issues such poverty, housing and the division of Jerusalem, and had "received no answers." Speaking after his party's meeting with Livni, Litzman said that the conversation was an informal exchange of ideas. Tovah Lazaroff and Shelly Paz contributed to this report.


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