Sources: Netanyahu to offer Livni 'full partnership' in coalition
Netanyahu aides: He will also offer Livni 2 of 3 top portfolios, suspend talks with rightist and ultra-Orthodox parties.
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who is forming Israel's next government, is expected to offer his Kadima counterpart Tzipi Livni "full partnership" in a future cabinet, according to sources involved with the negotiations.
The sources said Likud is also offering that Kadima join it in drafting the framework for the government's policies.
In a message that political analysts interpreted as designed to increase the trust between the parties, Netanyahu said he would suspend talks with other coalition partners - including the ultra-Orthodox and rightist parties - until after he concludes his talks with Livni.
Netanyahu's associates said he intends to offer Livni two of the government's most prominent portfolios, from among defense, finance and foreign relations. The associates described this as "unprecedented in its generosity."
Livni came under pressure from senior members of her own party over the weekend to agree to consider a unity government with Netanyahu, after President Shimon Peres tapped him to form the government.
Livni also came under harsh criticism from other party members for "leading Kadima into the opposition without even hearing Netanyahu's offer," as one official alleged.
Shaul Mofaz, whom Livni narrowly beat in the party primary, has so far refrained from denouncing Livni in the media. However, based on accounts of his conversations with Knesset members and ministers, he is accusing Livni of "rushing to the opposition."
He is also quoted as saying that by "rushing to the media" with statements that Kadima would not sit in a coalition with Likud, Livni marooned Kadima in the opposition before the party had a chance of consulting with other parties, or even bringing the subject up for a vote by the party's senior leaders.
"There is discontentment within Kadima about Livni's conduct," one Kadima official told Haaretz. "The national interest calls for a national unity government. Livni should at least try. Saying 'no' straight off without listening to what Netanyahu has to say is problematic by any standard, and it's also unprofessional."
Vice Premier Haim Ramon said over the weekend: "Kadima is Likud's natural partner, not Shas and the ultra-Orthodox parties." In an interview with Channel 2, Ramon said: "Kadima has no principle that requires us to go to the opposition. But the question is whether Kadima would be able to manifest its principles in a government where Netanyahu is forced to reject [peace offers] because he is captive to Shas and the extreme right."
Regardless of where Kadima is headed, Labor seems likely to head for the opposition. Despite this, Netanyahu will meet with Labor Chairman Ehud Barak and offer that he join the coalition.
However, internal opposition will most likely not allow Barak - who has already declared that he will try to "rebuild Labor from the opposition" - to accept the offer.
Barak reportedly said over the weekend that he intends to run for reelection in the party's primary "only if he is forced to do so." Labor's charter requires it to hold a primary within 14 days of a general election. Former chairman Amir Peretz has announced he will run, and Isaac Herzog and Ophir Pines-Paz are also expected to announce their candidacies.