Differences over Palestinian statehood are likely to scupper Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to forge a broad Israeli government with his main rival, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, an official of his Likud party said on Thursday.
"There is across-the-board agreement on Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas but there is a big gap between Kadima and Likud on the two states for two people. It's unsolvable," Silvan Shalom, a senior Likud legislator and former foreign minister, told Israeli Army Radio.
Israeli Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu plans to meet Livni on Friday in another attempt to recruit her centrist Kadima party, which backs the Palestinians' quest for a state. He wants to shift the focus of U.S.-sponsored talks from thorny territorial issues that would set the boundaries of a state to shoring up the Palestinian economy.
Netanyahu has said any Palestinian state must have only limited sovereignty and be demilitarized. Livni has said Kadima would not join a government that does not commit clearly to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sources close to Livni said she may change her position on joining the coalition should the prime minister-designate unequivocally clear up three issues: His support for the two-state solution, changing the government system, and civil marriages. "The two most significant main issues are the diplomatic and religious ones," a Livni associate said. A senior Kadima official said that "if Netanyahu will back the two-state solution and offer a rotation, it will be difficult to say no to him."
Livni associates also said that Netanyahu will be rejected by Livni out of hand should he bring up the question of portfolios during their upcoming meeting. "She's uninterested in portfolios," a source close to Livni said. "She wants unequivocal clarifications regarding the path to be adopted by the government and its Basic Lines."
Meanwhile, senior Likud officials said that Kadima may end up joining the government later on. "Even if it doesn't happen immediately, it can happen in a few months," a Likud source said.
As Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians in the outgoing government, Livni has been at the forefront of a land-for-peace process whose declared aims are to achieve a viable Palestinian state and security for Israel.
"Unfortunately the answers we are receiving from Kadima leaders is that there is no chance of her changing her position. And it seems that tomorrow she will say a final 'no'," Silvan Shalom told Israeli Army Radio. Asked about Shalom's remarks, a Kadima spokeswoman said Livni's position was unchanged.
NETANYAHU: MEETING WITH LIVNI DECISIVE
Two days before his second meeting with Livni, Netanyahu is hinting that he plans to take additional steps in order to bring Kadima into his government. "I think the meeting on Friday will be decisive and meaningful," Netanyahu said Wednesday in closed-door sessions.
Various sources who spoke with the Likud leader said they were uncertain whether he was optimistic ahead of the meeting. However, one source said that "it appears he intends to further accommodate Livni. He genuinely wishes to bring Kadima into the government and establish a broad coalition."