Likud downplays fault lines in coalition, forecasting stability

Likud downplays fault li

Kadima will have a difficult time exposing schisms in the coalition in the seven-month-long winter session of the Knesset, Likud officials predicted Monday. The officials said that no serious problems were expected in the near future on any of the coalition's five major fault lines: economic, diplomatic, political, religious and legal issues. They said the deepest ideological rift in the coalition was on economic issues, but for the first time ever, the Knesset's winter session would not revolve around the passage of the budget, because the law was changed so that budgets will now only need to be passed every two years. On diplomatic issues, the divide between right and left was eased by the Palestinian reluctance to progress in diplomatic negotiations. On the right, Likud rebel MKs said they would press against a settlement freeze, while on the left, Labor rebel MKs said they would continue to pressure Labor chairman Ehud Barak to leave the coalition. But a Labor rebel MK said he did not expect to make any progress in breaking up the Labor faction or removing the party from the government. Efforts to form a new movement as a precursor to a future left-wing party have been temporarily shelved. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated his interest in maintaining discipline in his party when he told his faction on Monday that "unity in the Likud is the key to unity in the nation." The divide on matters of religion and state is only expected to flare up in a serious manner in October 2010, the deadline set when the coalition was formed for finding a solution for non-Jews who want their marital unions with Jews recognized. There could be action on the legal front if Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz decides to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman before Mazuz leaves office in January. But Likud officials have said consistently that Lieberman's departure would only make the coalition stronger and make it less likely for Israel Beiteinu to leave. Without serious rifts expected on the five major fault lines, Kadima will focus on other issues like political reform. The Kadima faction also decided to back the campaign of motorcyclists against rising insurance costs. Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner said his party's renewed focus on reforming the political system was not intended to highlight rifts on the issue among Likud, Israel Beiteinu and Shas. He said his party's main goal on the issue was to pass legislation that would automatically make the leader of the largest party prime minister. Had that legislation passed in the last Knesset, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni would have become prime minister instead of Netanyahu. Kadima will try to promote the change in meetings with representatives of all the factions. "There is an attempt to build a consensus that is possible in this Knesset," Plesner said. "We haven't decided exactly what we want yet. We prefer strengthening the parliament to a presidential system, because we want the government to be able to govern better and longer." Asked about enacting direct, regional elections for part of the Knesset, Plesner said, "We're not ruling that out, but it would be really hard to pass."