- government - Israel - Kadima
JERUSALEM - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party signed a draft coalition deal with Defence Minister Ehud Barak's Labour Party on Monday, moving her a step closer to becoming Israel's prime minister, political sources said.
Representatives from the two parties, already partners in the outgoing government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Kadima, initialled the draft accord, which still needs to be finalised and ratified by party institutions, the sources said.
A political partnership with Labour would still leave Livni short of a workable parliamentary majority. Kadima officials said she planned to continue efforts to persuade the Jewish ultra-Orthodox Shas party to join a coalition under her leadership.
Livni was elected by Kadima members last month to take over as party leader from Olmert, who resigned as prime minister in a corruption scandal. He remains in office in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.
Under a presidential mandate, Livni has until early November to present a new cabinet. Failure to do so would likely lead to an early parliamentary election.
Opinion polls indicate an election now would be won by the right-wing opposition Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking before the coalition pact was initialled, Labour cabinet minister Ami Ayalon said: "I think that this will be good for the Labour party and for Israel.
"At the end of the day, we all need a government with a very, very clear policy that will give the public a sense of confidence, primarily on the economic issue," Ayalon said.
Both Kadima and Labour have pledged to continue to pursue a peace deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. U.S.-sponsored statehood negotiations that began last November have made little progress.