After his meeting the Opposition leader Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his coalition members that forming a new coalition or early elections are options to be considered if Unity government is not established.

This warning adds pressure on the Likud and National Religious Party rebels who oppose the Labor joining the government as none of them are interested in early elections.

‘Members of the coalition cannot fail to support’ the government. ‘It’s very ‘moving’ to watch some of the people either going out or others not taking part in the votes. But this is something that, of course, cannot continue.’ Sharon said.

He added, ‘If it does continue, this places me in a position where I must form a new coalition,’ Sharon declared. In a nod to the unity government, the prime minister said he could either ‘broaden the coalition, not because I want to but for lack of an alternative, or… I will have to go to [early] elections.’

On his side, following the meeting, Peres told members of his own faction that he expected to begin formal negotiations with Sharon on forming a unity government to push ahead on a Gaza withdrawal.

Sharon, Peres to Discuss Unity Government Today

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to meet Labor Chairman Shimon Peres Monday morning for initial talks on forming a national unity government.

Sharon’s aids assured Sunday Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom that efforts would be made to ensure his portfolio.

Uzi Cohen, an influential Likud Central Committee member said Monday that if a unity government caused any harm to Shalom’s status, ‘World War III’ would follow.

Both Shalom and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are worried that if Labor joins coalition they could lose their cabinet seats.

Sharon is concerned that if both key ministers join the already growing opposition within the Likud party to the idea of a unity government, he will face a serious crisis within his party.

Sharon’s associates said Sunday that Labor might be offered 8 cabinet seats in order to save the portfolios of Netanyahu and Shalom.

Shalom and Netanyahu met Sunday and agreed to object to any changes in the government’s economic or political policies.

Meanwhile, the Labor Party is considering withdrawing a no-confidence motion filed last week as coalition talks are underway.

Likud ‘rebels’ met Sunday to discuss ways to thwart the establishment of the unity government.

They decided to petition faction members to oppose the establishment of a national unity government.

Minister Uzi Landau warned that the inclusion of Labor would the government into a leftist-secular one.

Likud ‘rebels’ also decided to collect the signatures needed to force a meeting of the party’s Central Committee.

A mild opposition to the idea is felt within Labor circles; opposition within Likud is seen as more serious.

Opposition within Labor, led by MKs Yuli Tamir and Eitan Cabel, would only gain momentum if Peres fails to convince Sharon to introduce changes in the government economical policies.

In general, a majority in Labor favors a unity government.