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Middle east

Netanyahu asks opposition leader Livni to join cabinet

Video by Mariam Pirzadeh , Shona BHATTACHARYYA

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-25

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on centrist opposition leader and former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to join his government.

AFP - Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked centrist opposition leader and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday to join his government, his office said.
   
"The prime minister asked Mrs Livni to join a national unity government ... in the face of the national and international challenges facing Israel today," a statement said.
   
Livni's Kadima party, the largest in the 120-member parliament with 28 MPs, has been rocked in recent days by reports that Netanyahu pressed several of its MPs to break away and join his coalition.
   
Livni did not rule out accepting Netanyahu's proposal.
   
"If this is a serious offer, I have always said we can discuss the issue," an official in Livni's office quoted her as telling Netanyahu. She nevertheless said that a decision would only be made by an internal Kadima vote.
   
The premier told Livni that a future unity government would be based on his vision of a Jewish state living alongside a Palestinian state which he outlined it in a major policy speech in June, his office said.
   
According to an official in the premier's office, Netanyahu did not offer Livni any ministerial positions in his government at this stage.
   
Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party heads a coalition that includes far-right and religious parties as well as the centre-left Labour party.
   
Livni had rejected a similar Netanyahu offer after the March election.
   
The government's decision last month to impose a 10-month building freeze in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as a gesture to kickstart stalled Middle East peace talks drew fire from within the coalition.
   
Netanyahu's difficulties in maintaining stability in his government were underscored in recent days as key Likud ministers objected to a proposed swap of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners against Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip for over three years.
   
Livni's position at the helm of Kadima was called into question on Thursday when the number two in the party, former defence minister Shaul Mofaz, demanded party leadership elections.
   
"Kadima is facing disintegration," Mofaz told journalists when asked after a meeting with Livni about reports that Netanyahu had approached Kadima MPs.
   
"I very much hope that we will be able to find a leadership that will know how to make the right decisions," Mofaz said.
   
Education Minister Gideon Saar, of Likud, urged Livni to take up the offer.
   
"I urge opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Kadima to show national responsibility and accept the prime minister's offer to join a unity government," he said in a statement.

Date created : 2009-12-24

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