Lieberman, Livni mull 'civil front' to counter religious bloc
Kadima, Yisrael Beiteinu find common ground on issues of religion and state, look to thwart Likud bloc.
Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Kadima chief Tzipi Livni are working to form a "civil front" to counter the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties which Likud has been wooing in the coalition talks.
Sources in Kadima and Likud say they don't expect Lieberman to recommend any candidate to President Shimon Peres on Thursday as Yisrael Beiteinu's choice to form a new government. Lieberman would instead try to force the formation of a national unity government consisting of Kadima, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, without ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party Shas.
"Bibi doesn't have Lieberman," Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Haaretz on Monday, using the nickname of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. "And the significance of this is that Netanyahu doesn't have 61 Knesset members who will recommend that he be asked by the president to form the next government. On civil matters, Lieberman is more of our [Kadima's] partner than Bibi's."
Kadima came in first in last week's general election, followed by Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor.
But Labor party chairman Ehud Barak reportedly said that Livni's dealings with Lieberman mean that Labor will not recommend to Peres that Livni form the next government.
Closer relations between Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu were reflected Monday in a meeting between Ramon and Stas Misezhnikov, the head of Yisrael Beiteinu's negotiating team for the coalition talks. Ramon presented a document showing that Kadima had accepted all of Yisrael Beiteinu's five demands except for the proposal on citizenship legislation.
In everything related to religion and state, the Kadima document is similar to Yisrael Beiteinu's position, including support for a civil-marriage law, a change in the system of government and a solution for the conversion issue.
At minimum Lieberman will try to show his electorate that he is promoting the so-called civil agenda he advocated during the election campaign, sources say.
Senior figures in Lieberman's party say their boss is interested in creating a situation in which Kadima will not enter the government without Yisrael Beiteinu.
Netanyahu associates, meanwhile, say there is no chance that Shas will be excluded from a Netanyahu government. They expect Netanyahu to lead the next coalition.