Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon invites Labor Leader Shimon Peres for Coalition Talks; National Religious Party might Pullout; Labor MK Amir Pertz objects joining the government; Likud Minister Uzi Landau calls Likud hardliners to meet.
Sharon announced Thursday that he will meet with Labor leader Shimon Peres to discuss the possible expansion of his government.
‘I set a meeting for Sunday with Shimon Peres to discuss the possibility of broadening the coalition,’ Sharon told participants in the annual Caesaria Economics Conference in Jerusalem.
Even as he expressed satisfaction with his current government, Sharon said ‘if it becomes apparent that [withdrawal] is not possible, then I will have to form a different coalition,’
Peres’ spokesman, Yoram Dori, said that Peres had accepted the invitation.
Government officials said Sharon was serious about the upcoming meeting, but reminding that Sunday talks were only preliminary.
National Religious Party, which saved Sharon a series of no-confidence votes, expressed surprise.
Chairman of the NRP Knesset faction, Nissan Slomiansky, said that the faction would meet to discuss whether to continue its support to Sharon.
‘The prime minister cannot expect us to support him on the one hand and on the other conduct negotiations with the Labor Party behind our back’. He said.
Labor MK Amir Peretz said that he objects to the party joining the government.
‘Labor should reach an agreement with the prime minister on promoting the disengagement plan, setting a timetable, reaching an agreement on the budget and setting a date for elections.’ He said.
Likud Minister Uzi Landau, who firmly opposes the disengagement plan, said that he will meet Sunday with 10 Likud MKs to discuss ways of preventing Labor from joining the coalition.
Apparently, Sharon made the move after realizing that his right wing partners together with his party hardliners would make it impossible to move forwards with disengagement.