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      Bibi Seeks Partnership with Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu

      Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he plans to invite Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu to join his government.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 2/4/2009, 10:05 PM

      IsraelNN (photo file)

      Likud Chairman Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu said Wednesday that he is planning to invite Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) to join his government following the elections next week.

      In a private conversation with aides that was later leaked to the media, Netanyahu affirmed that his government's basic principles would leave the possibility of partnership with both parties open. “They already sat together, and there's no reason that with our fundamental ideals they couldn't do it again,” he said.

      Earlier in the day, Netanyahu told new immigrants at a campaign rally that he intends to invite Yisrael Beiteinu to join him in the coalition, saying, “If you vote Likud, I'll turn to [Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor] Lieberman and include him, and we'll build a strong government.”

      In a speech at the Herzliya conference on Wednesday evening, Netanyahu praised Labor party Chairman Ehud Barak for his work as Defense Minister.

      Barak has previously expressed his lack of enthusiasm regarding a shared coalition with Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. If a centrist or leftist party were to assemble the ruling coalition, “everything will be open,” he said, but if Likud is in power and includes Yisrael Beiteinu, the chances that Labor will join the coalition, as well are “low.”

      Labor would prefer to sit in a coalition with the hareidi-religious Shas party than with Yisrael Beiteinu, Barak has said. However, recent polls reveal that Likud will be unable to form a coalition with just Labor and Shas, and would need to include another major party or risk an unstable ruling partnership.

      'From Weakness to Strength'
      At the Herzliya Conference, Netanyahu told listeners that Israel is standing at a critical juncture. “I believe that the citizens of Israel will choose to end the era of weakness and begin an era in which we grow stronger. They will put an end to the era of illusions and set out on the path of recognizing reality,” he said.

      Netanyahu recalled the 2006 election campaign, and said his warnings regarding the Kadima party had all come to pass. “I issued warnings about Hamas's ascent, Iran's growing strength, the weakness of the Palestinian Authority, the one-sided withdrawal that had been carried out and those that were planned at that time,” he said.

      While accusing Kadima of allowing Hamas and other enemies to grow stronger and carry out increasingly bold attacks, Netanyahu praised the government for ordering the Cast Lead counter-terror operation in Gaza. However, he said, “the government ended the operation too soon, and did not allow the IDF to finish the work... Why? Because of a warped perception of reality and a lack of understanding regarding the nature of Hamas.”

      Netanyahu ended his speech on an optimistic note, saying, “A strong, united Israel can overcome any challenge.”