Netanyahu Makes Last-ditch Effort to Woo Labor

Despite slim odds, the Likud chief is still intent on adding Labor to governing coalition.

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is making a last-ditch effort to bring the Labor Party into his governing coalition.

Likud and Labor officials say Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have quietly held discussions. Netanyahu plans to present Barak with a concrete offer to join the government. Barak would then like to submit the proposal for approval before the Labor central committee.

A Likud official said that since Netanyahu met with Labor chairman Ehud Barak in the latter's Tel Aviv apartment earlier this week, additional messages have been exchanged by close associates of the two party leaders. The next 24 hours, he added, should reveal whether these talks are worth continuing.

Although the chance of Labor joining the government is small, the official acknowledged, it is enough to have persuaded Netanyahu not to finalize a narrow rightist government this week, as he had originally planned.

An associate of Barak's estimated the chances of Labor joining the coalition as "slim, but not nonexistent." In contrast, associates of Livni said that her "strategic decision" not to join Netanyahu's government remains unaltered.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is slated to present his new coalition to President Shimon Peres next week and will not seek an extension to the two weeks he was given to forge a government.