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Livni Rejects Netanyahu's Final Offer

Likud head Netanyahu met with Kadima's Tzipi Livni on Friday morning for one final attempt to coax her into a broad coalition.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/27/2009, 12:57 PM

Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

Likud Party Chairman Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu met with Kadima party head Tzipi Livni on Friday morning to make a final effort to convince her to join a Likud-led coalition. Livni rejected his offer, leaving Likud with no option but to turn to the nationalist parties and attempt to form a more narrow coalition.

Livni had rejected previous coalition offers, including an offer that would have given Kadima veto power over goverment decisions and several senior ministries.

A senior Likud official explained Friday prior to the meeting that Netanyahu believes the parties share common ground and could work together. “Netanyahu thinks there's still room to negotiate... They already agree on the main issues: Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah, and the financial crisis,” he explained.

Despite the general agreement between Likud and Kadima, Netanyahu does not expect Livni to join him, the source added.

Netanyahu hoped to convince Livni that he and she hold the same opinions regarding the creation of a Palestinian Authority state in Judea and Samaria as well. Netanyahu told Livni that he hopes to advance negotiations with the PA that were begun after the Annapolis Conference in 2007, his spokesman said.

However, another party source said the questions of negotiations with the PA and continuation of the Annapolis policy were one of the central sources of conflict between Likud and Kadima.

Netanyahu's expected coalition partner Avigdor Lieberman, the head of Yisrael Beiteinu, clarified this week that he also supports the creation of a PA state.

Livni expressed interest in joining with Likud only if Kadima would lead the coalition, or if the two parties would share power equally, with her and Netanyahu alternating as Prime Minister. Netanyahu rejected both ideas.

Some Kadima members are unhappy at Livni's refusal to sit in a government led by Netanyahu. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is widely considered a frontrunner for the position of Defense Minister if the parties were to unite, has publicly criticized Livni's refusal to join the coalition, as has MK Ronit Tirosh. Several other Kadima MKs have expressed anonymous criticism in various media outlets.

Nationalist parties have expressed satisfaction over Likud's failure to join with Kadima, saying the next government will be more Jewish and Zionist than the last. However, the heavily religious coalition that Netanyahu was expected to build following Kadima's rejection could be in danger, as a recent ruling by Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv could leave United Torah Judaism unable to sit with Yisrael Beiteinu.

Rabbi Elyashiv, a leading figure in the Ashkenazi hareidi-religious world, ruled that it is forbidden to compromise in any way regarding civil marriage. Civil marriage must not be allowed even between non-Jews, he said.

Yisrael Beiteinu has made civil marriage a central component of its demands. Almost 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants, most from the former Soviet Union, are unhappy with Israel's current marriage laws, which approve of marriages only under the auspices of a recognized religion. Many secular Israelis support civil marriage as well.