Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again asked opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) to join his coalition on Thursday - but said if she refused, he would do his best to split her party.
Netanyahu told Haaretz that he has wanted to expand his government "from day one." In coalition talks after the election, he said, "we offered her 'unto half the kingdom' and she did not want it. But I'm continuing to try, and if I can, I'll take at least part of Kadima."
Netanyahu said he believed there was a chance Livni would join his government - even though today, he is only offering her the job of minister without portfolio.
Expanding the coalition is important "in light of the political, security and economic challenges," he said. "The coalition is not always coherent in these matters. Kadima joining, or part of Kadima joining, would create a very large and focused bloc."
Netanyahu said he wanted "wider margins" to pursue action on "various fronts," including steps such as those he has already taken on the Palestinian issue: the removal of West Bank checkpoints, his speech at Bar-Ilan University in which he supported a Palestinian state ("words are also important," he said), and the freeze on construction in the settlements.
"What is Kadima's problem with joining?" he asked. "The diplomatic plan has very broad national consensus today."
"Today, after the Bar-Ilan speech, everyone knows we do not reject peace," he added.
Netanyahu said he foresaw no problem working with Livni. "She'll come in as minister without portfolio," he said, "like [Menachem] Begin in 1967," in the run-up to the Six-Day War. He rejected the claim that he wanted Kadima in the government in case Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) is indicted on the corruption charges for which he is being investigated, and Yisrael Beiteinu subsequently leaves the coalition.
Netanyahu is set to meet with Livni on Monday evening to continue discussions on Kadima joining his coalition.
"We need to talk about things of substance and meet again," Livni said. She added that Kadima's decision of weather or not to join the coalition would follow consultations within the party and does no lay solely with her.
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