Ehud Barak wants to set up a government that is as broad as
possible, to include Meretz, Shas and Likud, according to
senior members of the Yisrael Achat party. They stressed that
they believed that this was possible, though it certainly is
not an easy task.
Barak would prefer to set up a government that would have
over 90 seats, representing three-quarters of the members of
Knesset. This would give it considerable weight, and would
also not allow any individual party to hold the government
hostage to its demands. Some observers said that Barak was as
concerned about pressure from the Left as from the Right,
after seeing how effectively Meretz controlled the previous
Labor government of Yitzhak Rabin.
Israeli Prime Minister elect Ehud Barak reportedly presented
potential coalition partners 10-points outlining his policy
goals. They were not officially made public, but there were
many reports in the press.
The points are said to be the following:
* Security and an unrelenting fight against terrorism are top
* Jerusalem will remain united under Israeli sovereignty;
* Israel will not withdraw from all of Judea, Samaria and the
Gaza Strip; and
* A majority of Jewish settlers will live in settlement blocs
under Israeli sovereignty -- a statement that implies smaller
settlements will be dismantled.
The remaining points deal with such domestic issues as
education and embarking on a war on poverty.
The points are reported to make no mention of resuming
negotiations with Syria and Lebanon.
Barak's negotiating team began discussions Monday with four
leftist and moderate parties that are seen to be the closest
to Yisrael Achat: Meretz, Yisrael Ba'Aliyah, the Center Party
After the talks, the head of Barak's negotiating team, David
Libai, said there was enough common ground that initial talks
with the four parties could be concluded before the end of
The four parties were ready to be flexible in order to allow
more hawkish groups such as the Likud and the National
Religious Party to be able to join the coalition, said Libai,
who served as justice minister in the former Labor
On Tuesday the team is expected to meet with the Arab parties
and the party of Amir Peretz in the morning, followed by the
Likud and Shas in the afternoon. On Wednesday meetings are
expected with Mafdal, United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Yisrael
Beiteinu, and the National Union.
Barak, meanwhile, continued to keep his cards close to his
vest regarding his coalition preferences and also detailed
proposals for action. There were reports in the press that he
intends to impose a capital tax, but these were vigorously
Outgoing Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, who reportedly may be
offered the same position in the new government, told a party
meeting Sunday that Likud should remain open to joining the
new government, but not at any price. ``If we're invited [to
join the coalition] it will be based on our ability to go in
a way that is similar or close to our way," Sharon said.
``But under no conditions should we run to them.''
Absent from Sunday's meeting was outgoing Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, who resigned as party leader after his
electoral defeat. Netanyahu plans to resign from the Knesset
this week, his aides said Monday. Netanyahu has numerous
offers to make lecture appearances and he has a standing
offer to write a book about his tenure in office, they
Special difficulties with Likud's joining are not expected,
beyond the already difficult problem of finding respectable
jobs for senior members of the Likud along with senior
members of Barak's own party. However there may be more
problems with Shas.
Barak is said to insist that Arye Deri may not lead the
party, whether openly or behind the scenes. Many felt that
this was a very difficult condition since its intrusive
nature makes it demeaning to the party.
The other main point is that Shas will not be allowed to
retain the Interior Ministry portfolio, and most observers
did not see that as providing an obstacle as long as the
party is offered another appropriate ministry.
Last week Deri announced his resignation as an MK but he also
declared, "I am not quitting," explaining that he remains
head of the movement. He lodging his appeal against the
district court sentence with the Supreme Court this week.
Barak and his team of coalition negotiators said they
expected to pass a so-called Norwegian law. This law would
mandate that ministers retire as MKs, thus enabling those
lower down the Knesset list who failed to make the cut, to
move up and enter parliament. It was also discussed at the
beginning of the 14th Knesset, but all previous attempts to
implement the Norwegian law have failed.
Meretz said that it demanded that talks start on the Syrian
and Lebanese tracks from where there were left off three
years ago; a freeze on all Jewish development in the
territories; the territories should be removed from the list
of high-priority development zones (A and B); and the
establishment of a constitution, including the right to
freedom of religion and freedom from religious coercion. They
also demanded that civil marriages and divorces should be
recognized; yeshiva students should be drafted for military
service and other social and political points.