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Is President Shimon Peres trying to pull together a national unity government? In private conversations Peres has had over the past few weeks with senior political figures and party leaders, he has been making statements to the effect that Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot advance the peace process with the present coalition government controlled by the right wing. To move forward, the president has been saying, Netanyahu will have to bring Kadima into his coalition and broaden the base of his government with moderates.

Peres has noted in these conversations that he is still convinced that Netanyahu is interested in taking historic steps vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The president says he has faith in the intentions and capabilities of the prime minister, with whom Peres has excellent relations. The president has also said, however, that Netanyahu is restricted by the right wing, that he wants to move forward but his right flank is not permitting it, and that the prime minister is concerned about his government's longevity. In order to make history, Peres says, the prime minister has to bring in Kadima.

Peres has expressed concern over the prospect of a sharp decline in Israel's international standing if the current diplomatic stalemate continues. He says bringing Kadima into the coalition will enable the prime minister to achieve a breakthrough in the peace process, which will improve Israel's standing in the world.

The president has said Netanyahu must make a serious offer to Kadima "with respectable terms." He is not supportive of Netanyahu's attempts at splitting Kadima and bringing seven or more of its members into his coalition.

Peres has also made comments along these lines directly to Netanyahu and to Kadima leader Tzipi Livni in face-to-face meetings in his office at the President's Residence. Up to now, Peres' efforts have not shown results. Relations between Netanyahu and Livni are extremely strained and lack trust or mutual respect, as was seen again this week at a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, where the two openly sparred and then on Tuesday in the Knesset plenum, when Livni launched a scathing attack on Netanyahu, among other grounds, for his ceaseless attempts to split Kadima.