Kadima to give Labor draft deal

Olmert wants coalition-building process completed by the end of the month.

kadima logo 88 (photo credit: )
kadima logo 88
(photo credit: )
Kadima representatives will present Labor's negotiating team with a rough draft for a coalition agreement on Wednesday after both sides reported progress in negotiations at Ramat Gan's Kfar Hamacabiah Hotel on Tuesday night. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Kadima ministers on Tuesday and told them that he wanted the coalition-building process completed by the end of the month. Members of Kadima's team said negotiations over the coalition guidelines would be completed by the end of the holiday, allowing for talks on portfolios to begin. Kadima's team negotiated with Labor strictly on socioeconomic issues and declined Labor's request to mention Olmert's West Bank convergence plan in the coalition agreement. They also rejected a request from Israel Beiteinu to guarantee that Olmert would seek international recognition for Israel's borders after a unilateral withdrawal. The only reference to diplomatic issues in the agreement will be Olmert's March 28 victory speech, which says that Israel will try to reach an agreement with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas but would "take matters into its own hands" if talks with Abbas are unsuccessful. Olmert said that every party that joins the coalition would be required to accept the convergence plan. "I won't build a coalition with an opposition inside it," Olmert said at a Pessah toast at the Prime Minister's Office. "If every party would receive all it demanded, the government would collapse." Olmert told the ministers that Kadima will try to hold on to the Interior Ministry portfolio at the request of some 80 mayors who have joined the party. He said Kadima would also try to keep the Finance and Education portfolios but that the Internal Security portfolio might be given to Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman. In discussions with Labor's negotiating team, chairman David Liba'i condemned the government for creating facts on the ground during negotiations by firing 1000 teachers. After three days of talks at the hotel, the negotiations with Labor will shift to an undisclosed location to focus on finalizing details in the agreement. Finance Ministry budget chief Koby Haber participated in Tuesday's talks and explained to Labor why many of its demands were impossible to meet under the framework of the budget. For instance, Labor's team said that its primary demand for raising the minimum wage to $1000 a month would harm employers and not the government, but Haber said that the government itself employs many workers at minimum wage. Negotiations also took place on Tuesday between Kadima and Shas, which focused on Shas's demand for restoring cuts in child welfare payments. "What is going on with all the parties is that we are writing what we agree on and focusing on what needs bridging," a Kadima negotiating team member said. "Everything is open and nothing is closed until it's closed. They ask for everything and there is nothing we oppose ideologically. But we are trying to maintain financial discipline so what we end up paying will be reasonable."