Marathon negotiations between Labor, Likud
Talks resume Monday evening at full steam, both sides intent on resolving remaining issues in time for Tuesday Labor vote on whether to enter coalition. Netanyahu, Barak may hold meeting tomorrow to iron out deal. Meanwhile United Torah Judaism is refusing to back down on opposition to civil marriage
The Likud and Labor launched a marathon negotiation session on Monday evening, in a bid to reach the finish line before Labor votes on whether to enter a coalition under Benjamin Netanyahu.
Minister Shalom Simhon opened the meeting by saying the teams are willing to negotiate through the night and until the afternoon vote if necessary.
Earlier in the evening the Labor negotiators briefed Chairman Ehud Barak on the talks that took place throughout the day.
The representatives sat down for the first time on Monday afternoon at Ramat Gan's Kfar Hamaccabiyah Hotel, where the talks immediately hit several walls.
"We are facing some major obstacles in the coalition talks, particularly regarding the protection of the rule of law," Minister Simhon confirmed.
Some of Labor's demands would force the Likud to alter clauses in deals already signed with other parties. Labor wants a rotation for the leadership of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee – which has been promised to Yisrael Beitenu.
Prime Minister-designate Netanayhu and Barak are personally involved in the proceedings, discussing the developments over the telephone.
The two may decide to meet over the course of the coming 24 hours to resolve the remaining points of contention prior to the Labor vote.
'Barak is acting like Lieberman'
Meanwhile tensions are rising within the Labor party. The seven MKs who oppose joining the coalition sent a letter to Netanyahu in which they the negotiating team appointed by Barak does not have a mandate to sign any deal.
Barak's proposal would see Labor sign a coalition agreement with the Likud and grant him the power to appoint ministers and deputy ministers on behalf of Labor to the new government.
"Barak is acting as though he isn't the one responsible for the party's failure in the elections, as though he has just brought a great victory. His behavior is like Lieberman's, and it has crossed all the red lines. He's trampling the party's values and all its codes," said Labor officials who oppose the proposal.
The defense minister has personally spoken with a number of Labor party members opposed to joining the coalition.
"There is no legal interdiction against establishing a negotiation team, and I will be happy to update the faction members as to their progress. It is our duty to hold a legitimate political debate – what is right for the State of Israel, what do the citizens want, and what is good for the party – instead of writing fallacious letters," Barak has been quoted as saying.
On a separate coalition front – Yisrael Beitenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman met on Monday evening with United Torah Judaism Chairman Yaakov Litzman to discuss the disagreement over the issue of civil marriage, which is holding up the signing of an agreement between UTJ and the Likud.
UTJ had hoped to finish the preliminary negotiations by Monday evening, a move that would have ensured the party's status in the burgeoning coalition. However the party's rabbinical committee ruled that no deal could be made until the civil marriage issue is solved.