Lieberman and Netanyahu
Lieberman and NetanyahuIsrael News Photo: Flash 90

The Likud party took the first official step towards a new coalition government shortly after midnight Sunday and signed up the Israel Is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) party. Its chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, will be Foreign Minister, but both parties left the door open for Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to join a national unity government.

The 14-page agreement was signed with the understanding that there would be changes if Livni were to change her stance and complete a unity government. The three parties together would have a total of 70 Knesset seats, far more than the absolute majority of 61 needed to defeat a no-confidence motion and remain in power.

Despite reports of behind-the-scenes contacts between Livni and Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, there are no indications that she is about to back down from her demands that the Likud accept a “two-state solution.”

The agreement with the Likud gives Yisrael Beiteinu five ministries in total, in addition to Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Public Security will be headed by Yitzchak Aharonovitch, and the Tourism Ministry will be operated by Stas Misezhnikov. Uzi Landau, who switched to Yisrael Beiteinu from the Likud, will be Minister of Infrastructures, and Sofa Landver will be Minister of Absorption and Immigration.

Yisrael Beiteinu agreed to settle for legislation to allow civil marriages between two non-Jews, leaving the issue of civil marriages in general to be discussed in a special committee.

The Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu previously agreed that Yaakov Ne'eman, who is not a Knesset Member, will be Justice Minister. The Defense Ministry will be headed by first-time Likud MK Moshe ("Bogie") Ya’alon, former IDF Chief of Staff.

Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu and his top aides are scheduled to meet with representatives of the Sephardic religious Shas party on Monday. Other coalition partners, assuming Kadima does not join, are United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Ichud Leumi (National Union) and the Jewish Home parties.