ANALYSIS / Why Is Livni So Quiet on Coalition Talks?

Like a gunshot at the end of a play, a final attempt to create a Likud-Kadima coalition is inevitable.

Like a gunshot in the last act of a play, or the fat lady who sings to her death in the last great act of an opera, a final attempt to create a Likud-Kadima coalition looks inevitable. Disgust mixed with panic over a political collapse that Benjamin Netanyahu and most of his senior people feel in light of the nascent right-wing coalition pushed them to seek a unity government more than two weeks ago. Whether it ends with a marriage or a cessation of bargaining by partners on the right - particularly United Torah Judaism and National Union - Netanyahu might come out ahead.

The coalition talks are being held on several channels - between senior politicians like Gideon Sa'ar, Dalia Itzik and Tzachi Hanegbi; self-appointed go-betweens; close associates; and the two party leaders themselves, who have spoken at least once. The clearest sign that something is happening is Livni's silence over the past 10 days.

Unconfirmed reports tell of major progress. However, rotation of the premiership is still a mystery. Some observers believe Netanyahu has agreed to a rotation that gives him three years as prime minister; others claim he is not there yet.

The timing of the report on unity, about a week before the end of the first 28-day deadline to form a government, is suspicious. It may be intended to urge the smaller parties, each of which believes it holds the key to the coalition, to regain their sense of proportion.

Netanyahu is to present his government to the Knesset on Thursday. In less than a day we will know whether Netanyahu is, as he has more than once declared, determined not to repeat the mistake of his narrow government in 1996, which sent him to a political low, or whether it was just a sophisticated gambit.

Labor chairman Ehud Barak, the great loser of the 2009 election, certainly hopes unity succeeds; that would make him opposition leader, with all the status and trappings of that post. In addition, Kadima's joining the coalition, at the price of ousting National Union and Habayit Hayehudi, could pave Labor's way to the government.

Barak's main condition as already been met: The next justice minister will not be Daniel Friedmann, but Ya'akov Ne'eman. The Justice Ministry will not go to Yisrael Beiteinu, but to Likud.