Israel’s Livni Signs Draft Coalition Deal with Barak

Israel’s Kadima and Labour parties on Monday reached an agreement in principle that would pave the way for the formation of a new government headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, media reported.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party signed a draft coalition deal with Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Labor Party. The deal moves Livni a step closer to becoming Israel’s prime minister, political sources said. The accord still needs to be finalized and ratified by party institutions, the sources said.

A political partnership with Labor 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, 50, was formally asked by President Shimon Peres on September 22 to form a new government, after she took over as Kadima chairman from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who stepped down as police recommended he be indicted over graft allegations.

She has since held negotiations with Labour and several smaller parties in a bid to gain the support she needs to form a new coalition government and avert snap elections that could bring the right-wing Likud party to power.

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 initialed, Labor cabinet minister Ami Ayalon said: "I think that this will be good for the Labor 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 Labor 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.


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