- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are taking another look at teaming up in a governing coalition, according to media reports Friday.

The alliance would give the incoming government stronger international support because of Livni’s commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The reports emerged as Netanyahu appeared on the verge of forming a narrow government with ultranationalist and religious parties that would take a harder line on concessions to the Palestinians than Livni’s Kadima Party.

Livni said after her last round of coalition talks with Netanyahu two weeks ago that Kadima would not sit in a coalition that was not committed to negotiations on Palestinian statehood. She also has said she would only join Netanyahu’s government if he let her serve as prime minister for half of the government’s four-year term. Netanyahu rejected the proposal.

Netanyahu spokeswoman Dina Libster said Friday that the two camps “exchanged messages through intermediaries.” She wouldn’t discuss the content of those messages, disclose whether the two leaders spoke directly or whether they had plans to meet.

Livni adviser Gil Messing said envoys from Netanyahu’s Likud party have been trying since the Feb. 10 elections to persuade Kadima to join the government.

“We have our stands and our principles on the diplomatic front and others and we won’t budge,” Messing said.

He said there were no plans for the two leaders to meet, and that there would be no sitdown unless Netanyahu agreed to accept Kadima’s positions.

Bringing Livni into the coalition would blunt the hawkish edge that a narrow coalition would have and give the incoming government a stable parliamentary majority.

Without Kadima, Netanyahu appears able to muster the parliamentary backing of no more than 65 lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament. That means virtually any of his partners would be able to bring down his government in a dispute _ as happened during his first term as prime minister in the 1990s.

A centrist government with Livni also would help Netanyahu avoid a clash with President Barack Obama, who has promised to become “aggressively” involved in pursuing Mideast peace.

Netanyahu has until April 3 to piece together his government. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s outgoing prime minister, continues in a caretaker role until Netanyahu can form a new ruling coalition.

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