PM, Livni to talk unity gov't, but Kadima still faces split

Netanyahu I hope Livni

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will discuss forming a national-unity government with opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday evening, but MKs in both their parties said Saturday night that a split in Kadima was inevitable. The Jerusalem Post learned over the weekend that the group of at least six Kadima MKs who intend to leave the party requested that the Likud try to persuade Livni to join the government so they would have an excuse to split the party when she said no - which she made clear she would over the weekend when she called Netanyahu's offer "not serious." Following the Thursday meeting between Netanyahu and Livni, Likud officials called the rebellious Kadima MKs. They expressed satisfaction with the move and reiterated their intention to break off from Kadima. "Either Tzipi Livni joins the coalition with Kadima or some of Kadima will join the coalition [without her]," the Likud's Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, the architect of the Kadima split, told Channel 2 on Friday night. "Part of Kadima see themselves closer to the positions of the government than the leftist positions of Tzipi Livni." Netanyahu's associates said he would tell Livni on Sunday that she needed to make up her mind immediately regarding his offer for her to join the security cabinet along with her No. 2, MK Shaul Mofaz, as ministers-without-portfolio. "My government has been functioning harmoniously and has achievements," the prime minister will tell Livni, according to his associates. "There is no reason to shock the system. If you recognize the opportunity to strengthen Israel in the face of the threats from Iran, and the Goldstone Report, accept my offer." If Kadima, in Monday's faction meeting, decides against joining the coalition, the Knesset House Committee could meet on Tuesday to formalize the split in Kadima, giving Netanyahu an accomplishment to celebrate at that evening's Likud Central Committee meeting, which could be tense due to opposition in the party to the construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria. That would depend on a seventh MK joining the six who are expected to leave Kadima: Eli Aflalo, Arieh Bibi, Shai Hermesh, Otniel Schneller, Yuli Shamalov Berkovich and Ronit Tirosh. But Livni does not intend to enable Netanyahu to split her party. In Sunday's meeting, she will demand that coalition negotiating teams be formed to discuss what the policies of a national-unity government would be on peace talks with the Palestinians and changing the electoral system. "If Mr. Netanyahu thinks his 'stinking maneuver' will work, he has no idea who he is dealing with," Livni told associates over the weekend. "His threats will have no impact on our decision about whether to join. We care about helping the country and not about political maneuvers. If there is no common denominator, there is no point in being united." Livni spoke personally to almost every Kadima MK over the weekend, and a consensus opposed joining the coalition under the conditions Netanyahu proposed. Mofaz told Livni he insisted on being part of a negotiating team with the Likud. Tirosh released a list of demands for Kadima to join the coalition on Saturday night that did not include anything the Likud is unwilling to offer. She reiterated over the weekend that if Livni turned down the offer for unsatisfactory reasons, Kadima would split. "My purpose is to widen the existing unity government to [help] contend with the great challenges Israel faces," Netanyahu told his associates on Saturday. But, he said, "I have no intention of opening up coalition agreements of a unity government that is functioning so well and with such cooperation between its elements." "There will be no redistribution of portfolios," the prime minister said. "I expect a swift response from Livni and hope she will understand the importance of the occasion." Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) told the Tel Aviv Industrial Club on Friday that "Kadima unfortunately didn't join when the government was formed, and I hope they don't make the same mistake again."