Mon, Feb 23, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Netanyahu to meet Livni in bid for Israeli coalition

AFP , JERUSALEM

Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawk charged with forming Israel’s next government, was to meet his rival Tzipi Livni yesterday in a bid to cobble together a broad coalition.

Netanyahu is expected to ask Livni, the leader of the centrist Kadima party that won one more seat that his right-wing Likud in the Feb. 10 election, to join his government, Likud member of parliament Sylvan Shalom told army radio.

“We intend to form a government that is as broad as possible,” Shalom said. “There is no problem in finding a common denominator and we can reach understandings.”

Netanyahu and Livni were expected to meet in the afternoon, officials said.

Livni, the outgoing foreign minister, has said that she would have nothing to do with a right-wing coalition, but local media say that Netanyahu is planning to entice her with senior posts in a Cabinet.

The 59-year-old Netanyahu was formally charged by Israeli President Shimon Peres on Friday with forming Israel’s next government. He has up to six weeks, or April 3, to put together a coalition.

The former prime minister can in theory count on the support of 65 MPs from various right-wing parties in the 120-member Knesset parliament, but analysts say he wants to form a broader grouping that would be more stable.

Bibi, as Netanyahu is known in Israel, headed a right-wing government when he became the country’s youngest prime minister in 1996, but it fell apart three years later when small far-right parties quit in protest over deals he struck with the Palestinians under US pressure.

A right-wing government led by Netanyahu, who wants to improve the economy of the occupied West Bank before holding talks on any other issues, is likely to completely halt the faltering Middle East peace process, observers have warned.

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