Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu says his government will make every effort to reach "a viable peace with all of Israel's Arab neighbors."
Netanyahu made the statement in an address to the Knesset in Jerusalem during a special session marking 30 years since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.
"Whenever Israel stands before peace-seeking Arab leader, it follows and answers the call," Netanyahu said. "The government that I am about to form will do all in its power to reach peace with our neighbors."
Netanyahu emphasized that Israel will be ready to make extensive efforts on behalf of a genuine peace similar to that which was offered by late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. "Every one of our neighbors who will be ready for peace will find our hands outstretched before them," Netanyahu said.
"Ultimately peace is not judged by declarations or speeches as important as they may be," Netanyahu said. "Its true test is in its durability and peace with Egypt has proven itself in the test of time."
The Likud leader praised late prime minister Menachem Begin and Sadat for "their wisdom in making the impossible possible."
"A bereaved people understands the importance of peace," Netanyahu said, adding that all Israeli governments, no matter the political orientation, "reaches out its hand in peace."
"Israelis know how to spot genuine peace whenever it is offered," Netanyahu said, though he warned that "the real test of peace is in its stability and its durability."
Just before Netanyahu spoke, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave his final address to the Knesset, praising Begin for "demonstrating courage in making the fateful decision for peace."
Netanyahu on Monday began naming ministers for his incoming government - a line-up so long that Knesset officials have requested a larger table for cabinet meetings.
The new coalition will comprise 30 ministers and seven deputy ministers. Netanyahu officially informed acting-Knesset Speaker Michael Eitan on Monday that he has succeeded in assembling the cabinet and would be prepared to swear in the new ministers ar 5 P.M. on Tuesday.
The prime minister-designate was holding a series of consecutive talks with prospective ministers throughout the day on Monday.
Netanyahu is expected to take the finance portfolio for himself and to appoint Yuval Steinitz as minister below him.
Other Likud officials to join the coalition include Yuval Steinitz (Finance Ministry), Ya'akov Ne'eman (Justice Ministry) Gideon Sa'ar (Education), Yisrael Katz (Transportation), Moshe Ya'alon (Strategic Affairs), Gilad Erdan (Environmental Protection), Limor Livnat (Sports and Culture), and Yuli Edelstien (likely to take Media and Telecommunications).
Sources close to Netanyahu said he had no intention of appointing someone who would become acting prime minister in case of emergency. That post, and finance minister, are precisely the positions Silvan Shalom had sought; Shalom has communicated to Netanyahu over the past few days that he would prefer no ministerial post at all if Netanyahu does not keep his promise to appoint Shalom to a senior position.
It is believed Netanyahu intends to appoint Shalom as his vice premier and minister for regional development, or minister for economic peace and deputy prime minister, hoping this satisfies Shalom.
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman will be given the position of foreign minister, after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ruled on Monday that there was no legal reason to bar him from the post. Yisrael Beiteinu will take four more portfolios in the new government, including the Public Security Ministry (Yitzhak Aharonovitch), the Infrastructure Ministry (Uzi Landau), Tourism (Stav Miznikov) and Absorption and Immigration (Sofa Landover).
Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak, who will retain his position as defense minister, on Sunday gave Avishay Braverman Labor's fifth ministerial post - minister without portfolio with responsibility for minorities. Braverman, who was one of the seven Laborites who opposed Barak's move to join the coalition, said after accepting Barak's offer that he was at peace with his decision.
Labor minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer will take on the Trade, Labor and Industry portfolio, Shalom Simhon will serve as Agriculture Minister, and Labor No. 2 Isaac Herzog will head the Welfare Ministry.
Senior Likudniks are reportedly angry that Netanyahu gave so many senior portfolios to his coalition partners and for making them wait until the last moment.
A Netanyahu associate added, however, that "clearly there will be disappointments, but that is the price of a broad, strong, balanced coalition."
The senior coalition partner has only five portfolios: finance, transportation, communications, environmental protection, and culture and sports.
To these, Netanyahu was to add a vice premier and minister for strategic affairs, and to split Communications Ministry to create a Regional Development Ministry and a Ministry for Economic Peace.
Kadima MK Yohanan Plessner on Monday resubmitted a bill - submitted in the past by Likud MKs Reuven Rivlin and Gideon Sa'ar - to limit the number of cabinet ministers to 18. In his original proposal, drafted prior to the previous Knesset, Sa'ar wrote: "the expense of appointing so many ministers is a waste of crucial public funds."
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