Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

February 18, 2009--President Peres Begins Meetings, Shalit Relesae on Hold

Israeli President Peres met with delegations from Kadima and Likud today. Kadima stressed that historically the President has always empowered the largest party to try to form a coalition, and this time should not be any different. The Likud argued that Minister of Foreign Relations and Prime Minister hopeful Livni cannot form a coalition, thus Prime Minister MK Netanyahu should be given the right to try to put together a coalition. Tomorrow and Friday Peres will meet with the rest of the representative from the other parties. Netanyahu will receive recommendations from parties representing 50 (out of 120) seats, while it is not clear that Livni will receive any more than the recommendation of her own party, which has 28 seats.

The big question that remains is MK Avigdor Lieberman. Yesterday Likud responded to the demands of Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party. The response was not well received by the party. It is hard to believe that Lieberman’s demands on issues of state and religion can be bridged with Shas' positions on those same issues.

The cabinet met today and officially decided that there would not be a deal with Hamas before Gilad Shalit is released. There was not, however, discussion on the cost that Israel is willing to pay for his release. Without that discussion there is no way to further the deal. There is some feeling that Prime Minister Olmert may have decided not to pay=2 0the price for the deal. At the moment Egypt is willing to give Israel some more time, but it is not clear what will happen in a few days. I am not sure what one really can expect - a Prime Minister, who resigned months and months ago, a government that has more or less been voted out of office, but may still be in office for weeks if not longer while a new government is formed, and that new government will have at least some of the members of the old government. Israel was militarily prepared for the war with Hamas but the country is not politically prepared for the next steps, whatever they are.