Kadima, Yisrael Beiteinu Still Seeking Partnership

A meeting yesterday afternoon between Prime Minister-designate Ehud Olmert and Lieberman yielded no results.

Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu are still trying to find a formula that would permit the chairman of the latter, Avigdor (Yvette) Lieberman, to join the governing coalition. A meeting yesterday afternoon between Prime Minister-designate Ehud Olmert and Lieberman yielded no results. In the absence of a solution, the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman has begun talking to the opposition parties about becoming the head of the opposition.

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) last night heard that her name has been suggested as immigrant absorption minister, a post that was promised to MK Yuri Stern if Yisrael Beiteinu was to join the government.

Despite the signs from both Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu indicating a failure to find a solution, another meeting between Lieberman and Olmert, or Kadima negotiating team head attorney Yoram Trubowicz, was scheduled for late last night.

In yesterday's meeting, Lieberman asked for the Interior Ministry portfolio as an alternative to the Public Security Ministry that his legal troubles preclude. Since the Interior Ministry has been promised to Shas, Olmert offered Lieberman a choice - Transportation or Construction and Housing with expanded powers, including responsibility for the Israel Lands Administration.

Lieberman does not want either of these: He has already served as transportation minister and sees a return to that post as not reflecting his showing at the polls.

An associate of Lieberman's said the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman was following the advice of his strategist, Arthur Finkelstein, and rejecting any offer that did not advance his political position.

"In the past two days, Lieberman has lost his will to join the government under these conditions," the associate said. "He made a mistake by not signing a deal quickly, since Olmert didn't want to waste valuable time on Yvette when he could progress with Shas faster."

Lieberman complained yesterday to Haaretz about the way he was being treated. "There is not a single point that is a casus belli for us," he stressed, "but when you bring up five major points and don't get an answer to four of them, something isn't right. I would have handled the negotiations completely differently."