Labor chairman Amir Peretz intends to oppose Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's efforts to bring Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu Party into the coalition, sources close to Peretz said on Monday.
According to Peretz's spokeswoman, the defense minister said in closed conversations on Monday that he "saw no reason to bring Lieberman into the government."
Peretz will not publicly reveal his opinion until he convenes the Labor faction and the forum of Labor ministers ahead of the start of the Knesset's winter session on Monday to hear his colleagues' opinion on the matter.
There is a large majority in the faction against remaining in a coalition with Lieberman, with only Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer openly in favor. Labor faction chairman Ephraim Sneh said Labor should vehemently oppose the addition of Israel Beiteinu to the coalition.
Labor MK Colette Avital said that if Olmert wants Lieberman in his government, he should ask Labor's permission. She said Labor and Israel Beiteinu had nothing in common and that she doubted that Lieberman would accept the coalition agreement between Kadima and Labor.
"I don't see the necessity [of adding Israel Beiteinu], because the coalition has withstood all its pressures and has continued to exist," Avital said. "I would recommend not staying in the coalition [if Israel Beiteinu were added], because we wouldn't be able to promote our policies."
Olmert's spokesman said the prime minister was not concerned about Peretz's opposition, and was not worried about the coalition's future.
National Union MK Aryeh Eldad said that if Lieberman joined the government, he would be harming Israel ahead of the next war. He said the main objective for Lieberman should be toppling the government.
"The question is not what it means for the Right [if Lieberman joins the coalition], but what it means for the state of Israel," Eldad said. "Not everything for God's sake is politics. The question is whether Olmert, Peretz and [IDF chief of General Staff Dan] Halutz are the right leaders for the next war and the answer is no. Everyone who joins them and strengthens them instead of sending them home is doing something against the best interest of Israel in the next war."
Eldad said his concern here was Israel's future and not the advancement of one party over the other.
Likud MK Moshe Kahlon said Lieberman would lose voters if he entered the coalition.
"The voters [who supported Lieberman] will feel betrayed," Kahlon said. "They supported him because they thought he would stay to the right. They do not want to see him join a government that is identified with the left-wing." Kahlon said he didn't believe that in the end Lieberman would enter the coalition because he does not have enough in common with Olmert's government.
He accused Lieberman of wanting a governmental position at the expense of his ideals.
"There is nothing that unites [Olmert and Lieberman]," he said.
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