Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister-elect Ariel
Sharon have tentatively approved an agreement on conditions
for a national unity government. On Tuesday morning Likud
leaders were minimizing the differences and Labor leaders
insisted that there were still outstanding issues, but it
was clear that significant progress had been made.
The agreement says the government will work to advance peace
with the Palestinians using interim agreements and that
permanent peace will be negotiated with Syria and Lebanon on
the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338,
which call for trading land for peace. It calls for Israel
and the Palestinians to make painful concessions for peace
and to honor accords that have been approved by the
A mechanism would be created for coordination of the
government, which would most likely include two
representatives from both Likud and Labor.
Labor negotiator Dalia Itzik said that Labor agreed to take
the Likud's approach of working for interim agreements and
abandon Barak's efforts to achieve a final settlement,
saying: "It is clear that our approach has failed."
Regarding settlements, the Likud agreed not to build new
settlements and that support for existing settlements would
be based on their natural growth. The agreement does not
mention uprooting settlements or a Palestinian state.
National Religious Party faction chairman Shaul Yahalom, who
earlier in the day warned Sharon that his party would not
join his government if he signed a deal with Labor
abandoning residents of Judea and Samaria, welcomed the
agreement and said that, while he has not yet seen it, he
does not oppose any of its reported terms.
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, a Likud negotiator, said that
while Labor would be offered a full partnership in the
government, its negotiators are incorrect in thinking that
they could be given two prime ministers and veto power over
government decisions after their candidate attracted so
"I hope that the next time the Left negotiates with the
Palestinians, it will adopt as tough a negotiating stance as
it has with representatives of the prime minister-elect,"
Olmert said that Labor's negotiators were distracted by the
leadership void within their party, which he said was
getting in the way of the negotiations.
"The talks are going slower because of disorder in the Labor
Party," an official close to Sharon said. "Every time our
side brings something up, Labor has to go argue among
MK Yisrael Katz of Likud has been calling Likud members and
urging them not to support the coalition talks. Katz denied
that Netanyahu is connected to his effort. He said that he
is opposed to allowing Barak to become defense minister and
is organizing a rally against it for next Sunday, but that
he supports forming a national unity government that remains
committed to the principles of the Likud.
Katz said, "I gave my opinion that Barak cannot be defense
minister, because the Likud cannot afford to support another
zigzag that will hurt the country. Barak has to go home
after failing so badly as defense minister. The country
voted for our path, not the path that failed."