Habayit Hayehudi backs Bibi for PM

Party's 3 MKs meet Likud leader for "excellent" talks in J'lem; top Kadima members push for unity gov't

livni mofaz 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
livni mofaz 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu completed his round of coalition talks with right-wing and haredi parties on Friday, sitting down with the three Habayit Hayehudi MKs-to-be for what they called an "excellent" meeting at Jerusalem's King David Hotel. The three - Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz, Zevulun Orlev and Uri Orbach - said they would recommend Netanyahu for prime minister. "Since Habayit Hayehudi is a party based on trustworthiness and loyalty to the promises made to voters, even at the start of the meeting we informed Netanyahu that we would recommend him to [President Shimon] Peres," said Herschkowitz. Nevertheless, the party emphasized that it would not unite with Likud to form one faction, thereby becoming the largest Knesset party. Netanyahu said that he "views Habayit Hayehudi as a partner in any government" he would form. In related news, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim met on Thursday in Tel Aviv in an attempt to push Kadima to join a Likud-led government as a central partner, Army Radio reported Friday morning. If Kadima leader Tzipi Livni decides against joining a Netanyahu-led coalition, the two might leave Kadima and re-join the Likud, the radio station said. MK Ronit Tirosh, of the Mofaz-camp in Kadima, stressed the importance of her party being part of the government. "Israel is facing so many challenges on the security and socioeconomic fronts that it cannot bear a government of political extortionists from smaller parties. There must be a wide, stable national-unity government, with a rotation in the Prime Minister's Office as soon as possible," she said in a Kadima faction meeting. Vice Premier Haim Ramon also hinted that Kadima could join a Netanyahu-led government if the Likud leader would meet with Livni before reaching a deal with right-wing parties. "I think most of Kadima doesn't want to join a right-wing extremist coalition that Netanyahu is forming," he told Army Radio. "If [Netanyahu] wanted to appeal to Israelis, he would form the national unity government that is so important, but instead he is going to the Right first. We won't join a right-wing, haredi government that will paralyze the nation, prevent changing the system of government as well as making any changes on civil issues." Regarding the question of who should head the government, Ramon said "that's what negotiations are for. I am sure that through negotiations between Livni, Netanyahu and [Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman, we can reach agreements for the benefit of Israel." Israel Beiteinu negotiating team chair Stas Meseznikov also told Army Radio that "the public wants the three largest parties together." Meanwhile, Maariv reported on Friday that secret talks between Netanyahu, Livni and Barak on forming a national-unity government without Lieberman were being held. The Post reported Thursday that, despite public statements to the contrary by Kadima leaders, a consensus was developing in Likud and Kadima that they would be able to form a government together under Netanyahu's leadership on the basis of equality between the two parties. According to the scenario, the Likud would give Kadima the same number of ministries as the Likud, including two of the top four cabinet positions. The Likud would retain the premiership and the Treasury, while Kadima could be given the Foreign and Defense ministries. Some Likud MKs privately expressed opposition to Kadima joining the government, both for ideological and personal political reasons. They admitted that they would prefer a narrow government in which the Likud controlled the top portfolios and would receive more ministries. At a meeting of the incoming Likud MKs on Wednesday, the entire faction endorsed Netanyahu's decision to try to form a government with the 65 lawmakers on the Right, before negotiating with Kadima. Likud officials said parties on the Right could be given certain portfolios but told that if Kadima joined the coalition, they would have to relinquish them. The Likud also remains confident it can meet the two demands on which Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman has conditioned recommending that President Shimon Peres designate Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to be the next prime minister, Likud officials said Thursday.