Netanyahu offers Livni 10 portfolios, may form government without Lieberman

debkafile‘s political sources report that in preliminary talks Wednesday, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu offered Kadima’s Tzipi Livni the pick of 10 top portfolios for joining a government led by him. He has refused to consider rotating the premiership between them.
Although according to final results the Feb. 10 general election gave the centrist Kadima a slender lead of one seat (28 in the 120-member Knesset) over Likud’s 27, Livni is unable to muster a majority because both her potential left-wing allies, Labor and Meretz, took a severe beating in the elections. The country shifted to right awarding Netanyahu the support of a bloc of at least 64. President Shimon Peres must therefore assign him the task of forming a new government some time next week.
Thursday, Feb. 12, Avigdor Lieberman was still trying to maneuver between Livni and Netanyahu. He said he had made up his mind who to recommend as prime minister when summoned by the president, but would not say who it was. His Israel Beitenu faction will meanwhile lay out political guidelines as terms for entering government.
But rather than leaning on right-wing support, our sources report Netanyahu hopes to coax both Livni and Labor leader Ehud Barak to join his administration. Barak vowed to go into opposition to lead his party, which founded the state, to recovery after it crashed to 13 seats and fourth place. If he responded to Netanyahu’s invitation, it would be in defiance of his party, which prefers the opposition benches to a Likud-led government.
The ultra-religious Shas which held steady at 11 is committed to supporting a Likud-led administration and Torah Judaism could chip in with another five. If all these ducks line up for him, Netanyahu could hypothetically end up with a comfortable majority and a fairly broad-based administration even without Lieberman’s right-wing Israel Beitenu and the two smaller nationalist parties.
For now, the negotiations are still in their early stages. Ten years ago, Netanyahu’s first stint as prime minister was cut short by an early election which he lost to Labor’s Barak.

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