Skip to comments.[Israel's] President Katsav to kick off coalition talks
Posted on 04/01/2006 11:00:52 PM PST by anotherview
Apr. 2, 2006 3:02 | Updated Apr. 2, 2006 9:10
President Katsav to kick off coalition talks
By GIL HOFFMAN AND JPOST STAFF
President Moshe Katsav will begin holding consultations with party representatives on Sunday ahead of his decision this week on whom he should ask to form Israel's next government.
The consultations will kick off at noon when Kadima representatives Haim Ramon, Avraham Hirchson, Roni Bar-On, Dalia Itzik, Avigdor Yitzhaki and Marina Solodkin visit Beit Hanassi.
They will be followed by MKs from Labor, Shas, Israel Beiteinu and the Likud.
Katsav will meet Monday with representatives from the National Union-National Religious Party, the Gil Pensioners' Party, Meretz and the United Arab List. He will meet Tuesday with Hadash, Balad and United Torah Judaism.
Most of the factions are expected to recommend that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert form the next government, but some factions, especially the right-wing ones intend to recommend no candidate. Shas and United Torah Judaism asked to delay their meeting with the president in order to consider the other parties' recommendations.
Labor, Meretz and possibly Hadash will recommend Labor chairman Amir Peretz, despite threats from Kadima that factions that don't recommend Olmert would be excluded from the coalition.
Peretz, meanwhile, will continue efforts to form a "social bloc" by meeting Sunday with Beilin.
The Labor head was slated to meet with the Gil Pensioners' Party as well, but the meeting was cancelled by Gil late Saturday night. Early Sunday morning Army Radio reported that Gil would recommend Olmert as the head of a governing coalition.
Kadima officials warned Peretz on Saturday night to stop insisting on the Finance portfolio. Ramon said there was no chance of Kadima giving up the portfolio. MK Avraham Hirchson was the leading Kadima candidate for the coveted ministry.
Other Kadima officials mentioned that if their party would forfeit a senior portfolio, it would most likely be the Defense Ministry.
"If Peretz insists on being finance minister, he will have to be satisfied with being opposition leader," a senior Kadima official said. "We want Labor in, but it might be easier to govern without Peretz in the government."
Peretz told Labor MKs on Friday that "the era when people could scoff at Labor is over" and it was unfortunate that "the spin campaigns are continuing as if the election hasn't ended."
Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister, said the Finance portfolio was more important to the party than the defense portfolio. Ben-Eliezer said this even though he considers himself a candidate to return to the Defense Ministry.
Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson denied Saturday that Olmert had ruled out Peretz as a possible candidate for finance minister in a Kadima-led coalition.
"I don't think [Olmert] has ruled out Peretz, or anyone else, for finance minister," Hirchson told Israel Radio. "Peretz has an impressive record. Obviously, Kadima wants to retain a number of key portfolios. The Finance portfolio is very, very central, as it allows [the party holding it] to endorse their policies."
Olmert will meet the heads of all the factions this week to gauge their willingness to accept Kadima's coalition guidelines. He will start off Sunday by meeting Meretz head Yossi Beilin and Shas chairman Eli Yishai. No meeting has been scheduled with Peretz, who has angered Kadima officials by refusing to meet with Olmert.
National Union-National Religious Party chairman Benny Elon would not rule out the possibility that his faction could recommend that Peretz form the next government. He said that such a scenario would be possible if Peretz committed himself to focusing on socioeconomic issues and promises not to evacuate settlements.
The Likud faction will convene in Tel Aviv on Sunday to decide whom the party will recommend to Katsav to form the government. The party announced Sunday morning that they would not recommend party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu as leader of the coalition, with MK Reuven Rivlin saying "he doesn't have a chance."
Many believe that the Likud is most likely to simply not recommend anyone at all.
The Likud MKs began considering the subject on Friday in a meeting described as tense. The MKs did not begin discussing the ramifications of its electoral downfall in Friday's meeting, delaying the expected showdown between Netanyahu and his No. 2, MK Silvan Shalom, to Sunday's meeting.
MK Michael Eitan proposed the formation of an inter-party commission of inquiry headed by himself. Shalom wants an in-depth investigation into Netanyahu's failure as Likud chairman. The faction voted unanimously to re-elect MK Gideon Sa'ar as Likud faction chairman.
Sheera Claire Frenkel and Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.