Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Israel’s Livni close to coalition deal

AGENCIES, JERUSALEM AND TEL AVIV , ISRAEL

A Samaritan prepares a Sukka for the Sukkot (the Tabernacles’ Feast) in Mount Gerizim near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday. The feast, which begins today at sundown, commemorates the exodus of Jews from Egypt some 3,200 years ago.

PHOTO: AFP

Israel’s Kadima and Labor parties are close to a deal on a coalition government led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a move that sets her on course to form a new centrist administration, Army Radio said on Sunday.

Livni still needs to persuade other parties to join her to build a workable parliamentary majority. She was named by President Shimon Peres to take over from Ehud Olmert, who quit as prime minister over a corruption inquiry.

Olmert continues to serve as caretaker prime minister for now but if Livni cannot form a government by the start of next month, an early parliamentary election is likely.

“The formation of as broad a government as possible at this time is the best thing for Israel and I know that the public will not forgive those who ... send Israel to elections at this time,” Livni told Kadima members on Sunday night.

In order to present her governing coalition to the 120-seat parliament and gain a vote of confidence, Livni would have to enlist the support of a total of 61 members of the Knesset.

Olmert’s centrist government which served for more than two years, had the support of 67 lawmakers when he resigned. Analysts predict Livni’s government would have a similar political orientation and probably also similar support.

A Livni aide speaking on condition of anonymity said the deal with Labor could be signed by yesterday.

Army radio said Kadima and Labor negotiators would try to tie up loose ends in late-night talks before the start of a Jewish holiday yesterday afternoon

Meanwhile, Israel said it would seal off the West Bank for Palestinian movement early yesterday ahead of the first day of the Jewish Sukkot holiday.

The closure will be in effect until midnight next Tuesday, a security assessment said.

Sukkot, which si also known as the Holiday of Tabernacles, lasts seven days.

This time of the year sees several key Jewish holidays, including the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashana, two weeks ago, and the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, last week, during which the West Bank was also placed under closure.

The military said in a statement that it will be on “higher alert in order to ensure the safety of the citizens of Israel, while preserving to the best of its ability the daily routine of the Palestinian population.”

Palestinians in need of humanitarian assistance and medical aid would be allowed to pass into Israel during the closure, the military said.

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