Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday offered opposition leader Tzipi Livni two ministerial posts without portfolio should she agree to bring her Kadima party into the coalition, but said he would not divert from the foreign policy set early in his term.
During their evening meeting, Netanyahu also told Livni that the basic lines of government would not change should the centrist Kadima join the coalition.
He said that the premier would retain the right to make every policy decision, and that Kadima would be obligated to accept any agreements reached by the other parties in the coalition.
Following their meeting, Livni summoned her aides to debate the proposal.
Netanyahu made the call to meet Livni on Sunday in another attempt to woo Kadima into the coalition. Earlier Sunday, he urged her to act as then opposition leader Menachem Begin before the Six Day War.
"I met with the head of the opposition and told her I'm determined to widen the government," the prime minister said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
"I hope that Kadima will answer my call as Begin did in his time? [when] he joined the serving government in 1967. I believe that today, like then, what unites us is greater than what divides us."
Senior Kadima official Dalia Itzik said on Israel Radio that Netanyahu's offer to Livni was "rotten and deceptive."
Ahead of his meeting with Livni, Netanyahu said he was awaiting the Kadima leader's prompt reply to his offer to join the coalition.
"I hope Livni understands how crucial time is," said Netanyahu, adding that he would not redistribute ministerial portfolios if Livni's party accepted the offer.
Netanyahu reportedly told his advisers that he intends to "broaden the existing unity government in light of the challenges that Israel faces." However, he added that he had "no intention of reopening coalition agreements of a government which functions so well, with the full cooperation of all its components."
Livni, meanwhile, on Saturday consulted with prominent members of her Kadima party about whether to accept Netanyahu's proposal last week to join the government without the benefit of ministerial portfolios.
The round of talks Livni held with Yisrael Hasson and Shaul Mofaz, among others, came after Kadima members accused her of acting without taking their views into consideration.
Both parties had lowered expectations prior to the meeting, Israel Radio reported early Sunday, adding that they have expressed doubts about whether a unity government could be formed.
Last week Livni described Netanyahu's offer as an attempt to weaken the opposition.
A spokesman for Livni said Friday that she didn't consider the offer - which included no cabinet posts with governing power - serious.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal two days before the offer was made, Livni said she prefers being in the opposition to serving as a dovish "fig leaf" in the government.
She applauded Netanyahu's shift on Palestinian statehood - in which he said he was willing to work toward that end - but said his strategy for negotiations is too vague.
Likud officials have held talks with at least 14 Kadima Knesset members about defecting to Likud, according to Shaul Mofaz, Livni's main rival within Kadima. He said this is indicative of a lack of faith within Kadima in Livni's leadership.
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