Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon hinted Monday that, if necessary, he could always form a national unity government without the Labor party, as members of his Likud party continued talks with Labor aimed at reaching an agreement to form a unity government, reported Haaretz newspaper.
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) said that Sharon has other options, Haaretz said.
"We, unlike Prime Minister Ehud Barak, can form a government that would be called narrow, but would number 66 MKs," he said.
"Barak ran the country with 30 MKs. Even though a 66-MK majority is firm, we don't want it.”
But, he added, there are also time constraints: If the budget isn’t passed by March 31, we will have to go for new elections. Therefore, we are holding talks with other parties."
Associates of Barak and Sharon swapped recriminations over the stalemate in the unity talks.
Likud sources claimed almost everything had been settled as of Sunday night, "but Barak suddenly decided to raise new issues," a source told the paper.
He said that the news issues included demands that the National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu faction not be allowed to join the government; that the coalition guidelines be rephrased to speak of "phased agreements" with the Palestinians rather than interim agreements; and the "irrational demand" that Barak and Regional Cooperation Minister Shimon Peres, who is slated to be foreign minister in a unity government, be allowed total independence on policy issues.
Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post newspaper said that Peres refused to pledge his support for the choice of Barak as defense minister in a unity government.
Labor's central committee, which is slated to meet next week to vote on whether the party should join the government, may be allowed to vote on two alternative lists of Labor's intended ministers in such a government: one including Barak and one excluding him, said the Post. This would enable committee members to vote against Barak's participation in the government while still voting in favor of the unity government itself, said the paper – Albawaba.com
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