Netanyahu and Peres
Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO

Peres gives Netanyahu more time

Prime minister-designate arrives at President's Residence to receive 14-day extension in order to form coalition. Netanyahu expresses his hope that 'all leaders will reconsider the offer to form a wide national unity government.' Meanwhile, Labor members pressured to join Likud-led government

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu arrived Friday morning at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, where President Shimon Peres granted him a 14-day extension in order to form his government.


Netanyahu expressed his hope that "all leaders will reconsider the offer to form a wide national unity government".


The Likud leader is currently in the midst of a campaign aimed at convincing members of the Labor Party to join his coalition. Labor Chairman Ehud Barak plans to bring the matter to the party's Central Committee on Tuesday.


Shas Chairman Eli Yishai joined Netanyahu's effort on Friday morning in a conversation with Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel. He stressed the urgency of Labor joining the government in favor of dealing with the challenges facing Israel.


Netanyahu told Peres at the start of the meeting, "I could have presented a government to you and to the people of Israel by Sunday, but I chose to ask you for the extension in order to exert every effort which will lead to a national unity government as I promised Israel's citizens in the election campaign.


The prime minister-designate said his opinion on the matter had become stronger following his meetings with the General Staff and heads of the economy.


"We are facing difficult threats and an economic crisis. I hope all the leaders reconsider the offer to form a national unity government and put aside any personal and party-related consideration," he said.


President Peres replied, "I have a lot of appreciation for your efforts to form a wide government. It's sensible. As for the State's situation, I fully share your opinion."


Will Labor join?

Peres tasked Netanyahu with forming a government one month ago, and the prime minister-designate immediately called on Barak and on Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to join his coalition.


Netanyahu's request for a two-week addition is aimed at signaling to the Likud's rightist partners that the coalition talks are being "frozen" until Labor makes it decision.


Meanwhile, the Likud's Knesset members are waiting quietly for the developments, and many of the party's senior officials are refusing to rise up against the fact that if Labor joins the government the number of portfolios given to the Likud would drop significantly.


On Thursday, Netanyahu initiated talks with senior Labor officials in a bid to convince them to join his government. MK Cabel met with the prime minister-designate and made it clear to him that he would not support such a move.


Netanyahu said at the end of the meeting, "I have a lot of appreciation for Eitan Cabel as one of the most involved leaders. I believe that the State's favor requires unity."


פרסום ראשון: 03.20.09, 11:08
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