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There are those who gain everything in one hour, and those who lose everything in one hour, the ancient Jewish sages said. The leaders of both large parties should consider these words well.

You don't have to be an experienced politician or political scientist to realize that what the country needs now, like air to breathe, is a unity government based on the two large parties. Such a coalition is necessary and the only logical conclusion considering the election's outcome.

Such a government cannot arise on the basis of complete equality between Kadima and Likud. There is no end to the deals that power-hungry politicians can invent, but those who have the the country's good at the front of their minds understand that only one alternative can last, one that responds both to the people's desire for a stable government and the supreme national interest in a government that can act. That is a national unity government.

In the past 35 years only one coalition reached the end of its full term. That was the national unity government, based on rotation, established in the summer of 1984 and which remained in office until the end of 1988. That government saved the economy and stopped Israel from declining into the situation Ireland and Iceland are in today. That government also withdrew the Israel Defense Forces from most of Lebanon except for the security zone.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is right when he says rotating the premiership would be justified only if neither large party can establish a coalition alone. But Netanyahu refuses to recognize that this is the situation now.

The two parties, Kadima and Likud, are unable to establish a stable government that can work without joining forces with each other. This is, perhaps, a sad and undesirable situation - certainly for Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, but it's the reality now.

Livni cannot establish a coalition without Likud. That is a statistical and political fact with which it is very hard to argue. The coalition Netanyahu says he can establish, with 65 MKs, is a virtual coalition, a theoretical one, on paper only, a coalition of paralysis, and no one understands this better than Netanyahu himself.

The coalition of 65 lawmakers consists of small parties squabbling among themselves, while the main component - Likud - is a minority in its own coalition.

Does Netanyahu really believe he can deal with the challenges Israel faces when he is dependent on every step taken by Uri Ariel, Baruch Marzel and Eli Yishai?

Netanyahu pledged before the elections that he would work to establish a broad unity government. I believe this was his intention and desire, but in reality, at the moment of truth, he is acting differently.

If Netanyahu's intentions are indeed sincere, it's a pity he did not learn from Ariel Sharon how to build a unity government. When Sharon was elected prime minister in 2001, after he pledged to establish such a government, he approached the Labor Party first.

Sharon proposed to Labor to establish a unity government and announced that he would negotiate with no other party until he completed talks with Labor.

Sharon managed to establish a broad coalition; with it and thanks to it, he was able to deal with the second intifada and embark on Operation Defensive Shield.

It is still not too late. The games must stop. Netanyahu and Livni must sit together and establish the coalition that Israel needs and most of the people want - a real unity government.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.