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eli yishai speech298 88.(Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yitzhaki: Israel Beitenu will join soon
Gil Stern Stern Hoffman and Tovah Lazaroff
"Strong coalition requires representatives of entire political spectrum."
Israel Beitenu will join the coalition very soon, coalition chairman MK Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima) said Wednesday morning. "A stable and functional coalition needs to bring together representatives from the entire political spectrum," Yitzhaki told Israel Radio, and added that he hoped that other parties, such as United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Likud would also throw their hats in with Kadima. When asked about civil marriage, Yitzhaki said that while the coalition would not endorse non-halachic marriage, many Israelis wanted the basic right to marry here. The religious and haredi parties, Yitzhaki declared, must help find a solution. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told party activists that he wanted to widen his coalition soon. He spoke only hours after one of his governmental partners, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, endorsed a plan to bring Israel Beiteinu on board.
  • Yishai and Lieberman: An odd couple, but natural partners "Our central goal during the Knesset's winter session is to widen the government's coalition base, so that people will understand that there won't be new elections any time soon," Olmert told some 80 activists in his succa. Olmert said he could broaden the government on the basis of existing agreements, according to an activist who was in the succa. The activist said Olmert did not specifically name Israel Beiteinu as a possible coalition partner, but it has been widely assumed that he intends to do so following a meeting between Olmert and Israel Beiteinu party head Avigdor Lieberman last Friday. Labor Party leader Amir Peretz is opposed to the move, but Olmert on Tuesday said he believed he could widen the coalition while maintaining his existing agreements with his other partner. He added that he believed Labor is an important coalition partner. "It's not my intention to break apart the coalition with Labor. There are ways to expand it based on existing agreements. From the first moment, I wanted a coalition that would be as wide as possible and that would represent different segments from within the nation," said Olmert. He said stabilizing the government by changing the electoral system, a goal that he shares with Israel Beiteinu, is high on his list of priorities. Yishai said it was too soon to change the governmental system because it was not clear yet what kind of system Israel required. He said it would "not be serious" to copy elements of governmental systems from other countries, and he was concerned that the changes would hurt minorities in Israel. In addition, he said Israel Beiteinu would be an important and positive addition to the government. Yishai made the comments following a meeting with Lieberman Tuesday at his vacation succa on a moshav in the Golan Heights. The meeting was initiated by Lieberman, who said he wanted to speak to Yishai regarding the Israel Beiteinu leader's idea about changing the governmental system. When they realized they were both in the North, Yishai invited Lieberman to his succa and their families met. The two men disagreed about the changes that should be made to the governmental system and what should be done to provide a solution for thousands of couples that are unable to marry in Israel according to Jewish law, but progress was made on both issues. A source close to Yishai said he sensed that Lieberman was willing to compromise on his demand for instituting civil marriage. The two men decided to meet again next week in Jerusalem to make further progress that could lead toward Israel Beiteinu joining the coalition. Lieberman is also expected to meet again with Olmert for further political discussions. A spokeswoman for Lieberman said the Israel Beiteinu leader saw no need, at this juncture, to meet with Peretz, whom he believes would not be able to prevent him from joining the coalition. In further evidence that Peretz's opinion is not being taken into account, it was revealed on Tuesday that Olmert sent his political adviser Ovad Yehezkel to inform Yishai of his intention to bring Lieberman into the government on Friday. Peretz was only told on Saturday night. MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), whose party is in the opposition, told The Jerusalem Post that the government would be strengthened if Lieberman entered the coalition and Labor remained. "It would be more difficult to overthrow the government [if Lieberman joined it]," Steinitz said. National Union head Benny Elon, whose party is in the opposition, warned it was for this reason that the plan endangered Israel's future. Lieberman's entry would only temporarily help Olmert because it would provide the government with a cosmetic makeover, "not a root canal treatment," he told the Post. The country can't afford to waste that time in light of the growing nuclear threat from Iran, a country that has threatened to destroy Israel, said Elon. Olmert's government has to be toppled because in its current state it cannot adequately protect the country, said Elon. It's particularly problematic that it does not have the public's trust, he said. The only way for Olmert to remain prime minister without endangering the county is if he throws out Kadima's partisan platform and replaces it with a wide unity government focused solely on stopping the Iranian threat. The likelihood that Iran would soon have nuclear weapons increased this week, when North Korea, which has defense ties with Iran, tested its own nuclear weapon. "All of these things make for a dangerous situation," said Elon. He estimated that Israel has a year to halt Iran's nuclear threat. "We are running out of time," with respect to Iran, said Elon. In light of this, he said, Olmert should turn to each party head and ask them to join him in a unity government that would band together with the sole focus of saving Israel from Iran. "Everyone has to be invited," said Elon, who added that in that instance he too would join. Elon said that in this perilous time, it's a mistake to focus one's attention on the narrow political interests of a single party or the standard issues that have dominated the diplomatic agenda, such as taking down outposts and further withdrawals from the West Bank. He warned Peretz not to go through with his intentions to dismantle more outposts after the holiday as it would divide the country at a time when its citizens need to unite. "Is that what the nation needs now, a civil war instead of dealing with the real enemy?" asked Elon. "They [the government] know how to win against the settlers. The question is, do they know how to win against the enemies? The people hate it. It's the last thing people want to see on television," said Elon.
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