VIDEO / Meretz to Livni: Friedmann Must Go or No Deal

Party demand comes day after Labor head Barak tells Livni Friedmann's reforms must end before party joins.

Meretz will insist on Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's removal from office in return for its entering a coalition agreement with Kadima, party seniors Thursday decided ahead of the start of talks with Kadima's newly-elected leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

The party's demand was made a day after Labor said it would join the coalition only if Friedmann's reforms are halted. Labor leader, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said Thursday that his party did not recognize "Friedmann's initiatives to change the Basic Law, reforms or bills."

Meretz faction leader MK Zahava Gal-On, who will carry out coalition negotiations together with party chairman, MK Haim Oron, said Thursday: "Meretz will not resign itself to freezing Friedmann's initiatives like Labor. To put an end to this age of Friedmannism and protect the Supreme Court, we must not reappoint Friedmann to the position of Justice Minister."

Friedmann is not the only obstacle facing Livni en route to forming a new coalition government. Another bone of contention between Labor and Meretz, and Livni, is the issue of amendments to the budget. Livni yesterday met with Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer and heard about the international financial crisis. Fischer told Livni that renegotiating the budget at such a time would be irresponsible.

During their negotiations with Kadima, Meretz will also insist on the continuation of talks with Palestinians over a final settlement agreement, and stopping construction in the West Bank settlements.

In the Labor camp, officials Thursday voted in favor of holding talks over entering the coalition and demanding an assurance from Livni that the Knesset will not be dispersed before the end of its term.

"I have no interest in a short-lived government that will stay together for only a few months, or for a faltering coalition of 60 MKs," Barak said yesterday. "We're not afraid of elections."