Kadima, Labor Talk of Elections

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Kadima party members Sunday that they must prepare for general elections in the event she is unable to form a coalition.

"I believe that it is possible to end the current political uncertainty immediately," Livni said. "That is our responsibility and that of the other faction heads," she said.

"But Kadima has to also be ready for elections. I am trying to form a government and this is our top priority, but a party has to be ready for elections," she told her constituency.

Livni and her staff began meeting with representatives of various parties nearly two weeks ago, following a slim victory in her party's primary.

At Sunday's weekly Cabinet meeting, Livni reportedly told Defense Minister and Labor party chairman Ehud Barak that the country may be headed to early elections after all.

A week ago, Labor appeared ready to join a Livni-led government, with the promise of a "senior partnership," in the coalition, but the initial euphoria deflated somewhat when Barak presented Livni with Labor's demands.

According to Jerusalem Post political analyst Gil Hoffman, Livni's remarks about the possibility of new elections were meant to send a message to Labor and to the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

Both parties would like to remain in the government, but it's uncertain if Livni will give in to their demands - Shas, for more money for child allotments and an "end" to talk of dividing Jerusalem, and Labor, for Barak to lead negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians, among other demands.

Both Shas and Labor opposed the 2009 budget, which would have to pass to keep a new government afloat.

"We have to remember that two of our partners in the coalition opposed the budget," Livni said. "The intention is to reach a deal in advance so the government will be set. We will know we have the support necessary to pass the budge, and the government will have longevity," she said.

An aide to Barak said Labor was prepared for general elections if Kadima won't meet its demands.

"The gaps are great," he said. "Meanwhile, none of our demands have been fully met. If the rules of the game in the Cabinet do not change, we will go to elections," he said.

"There are a lot of disagreements, and if Tzipi Livni thought she would have a government in 10 days, she understands she was mistaken," another senior Labor official said.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz

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