Livni prefers to take on coalition talks by herself
Kadima's new leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, has decided not to appoint teams to carry out the coalition negotiations. She reportedly prefers to conduct all the talks herself in order to preserve the present agreement or to make small changes only.
Livni campaign advisors Reuven Adler and Eyal Arad, who previously advised Ariel Sharon, have been conducting unofficial talks over the past few weeks with Shas and Labor. They are expected to continue advising Livni.
Livni began a series of meetings yesterday within and outside of Kadima. She met with ministers Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit, telling them she wanted to use their skills in the new government.
She also met with Shas chairman Minister Eli Yishai, who said yesterday that his party would be in no hurry to "crown" Livni as long it was unclear whether she could form a coalition. Following his meeting with Livni, Yishai said he told her: "There is no government without Shas." He also said he discussed Shas' demand to increase child allowances and a pledge not to negotiate over Jerusalem.
Ya'akov Litzman, the chairman of United Torah Judaism, now in the opposition, told Haaretz: "Our principles are well-known. If I see that Livni is considerate of the things that are important to us, I will bring the question to the rabbis."
Litzman said these principles included not dividing Jerusalem, releasing more land for construction in the ultra-Orthodox town of Beitar Ilit and increasing child allowances as well as funding to yeshivas and Haredi schools.
Meretz, for its part, will want the peace process to move ahead and to ensure there is no further erosion in matters of religion and state. Meretz Knesset whip MK Zahava Gal-On said the party's MKs had not yet met to discuss the matter and had not been invited to negotiate, but said, "I don't imagine we will join a government that increaes child allowances."
The Pensioners will demand an increase in old-age pensions to 20 percent of the average wage and an exemption from management fees on their pension accounts for seniors, party whip MK Itshac Galantee said. The Pensioners' most important demand is that its breakaway faction, headed by MK Moshe Sharoni, not be in the government.