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Cablegate: Kadima's Livni Bails Out in Favor of Early Elections

VZCZCXRO5765
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #2401 3011637
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 271637Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8904
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASH DC

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002401

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV IS
SUBJECT: KADIMA'S LIVNI BAILS OUT IN FAVOR OF EARLY ELECTIONS

1. (SBU) Kadima chairperson Tzipi Livni on Sunday told President
Peres that she was unable to form a coalition and recommended early
elections. Livni, who ended her attempts to form a government only
two days after the ultraorthodox SHAS and United Torah Judaism (UTJ)
parties rejected her offers, has instructed the Kadima faction
chairman to submit draft legislation to dissolve the Knesset and
hold early elections on January 27. Kadima's preferred date is only
one of several possibilities, as other draft dissolution bills are
pending and Basic Law and other legal provisions suggest an
alternative election date of February 10.

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SHAS: THE FIRST DOMINO TO FALL
-------------------------------

2. (U) Livni negotiated with SHAS, UTJ, and the Pensioners Party to
avoid assuming the premiership with a narrow, left-leaning
government, but the parties could not overcome several stumbling
blocks. SHAS demanded nearly $260 million in 2009 for child welfare
benefits, but Livni refused to offer more than $170 million. Livni
also refused to submit to SHAS's demand that Jerusalem be excluded
from any negotiations with the Palestinians which, together with the
child allowances stalemate, prompted Rabbi Ovadia Yossef and the
SHAS Council of Sages on October 24 to opt against joining the
coalition. When SHAS pulled out of negotiations UTJ quickly
followed, as UTJ leaders appeared interested in joining the
government only if SHAS were also a member. Pensioners head Rafi
Eitan, sensing the collapse of negotiations for a Livni-led
government, on October 25 dismissed the option of joining a narrow
or minority coalition that would include the left-wing Meretz
party.

--------------------------------------------- -------
MISHANDLED NEGOTIATIONS OR PUTTING PRINCIPLES FIRST?
--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (U) Israeli leaders and pundits are commenting publicly about the
strategic errors made by Kadima party chairperson Livni, in what may
rank as the shortest coalition negotiations in Israel's history. No
less a figure than President Peres on Sunday pointed out to Livni
that he was surprised that she had not exhausted the negotiating
period available to her for the purpose of forming a government.
Responding to Peres' comment, Livni said that she had reached a
point where it was clear that there were cases in which more time
did not help in reaching a solution but only contributed to the
uncertainty. The public, she claimed, was weary of what she called
"intrigues" -- a term she has used in the past when referring to
extortion tactics in Israel's political culture. Later, in a
statement to the media, Livni said "there are prices that can be
paid and prices that others are willing to pay only to become a
prime minister in a paralyzed government." She added that "he who
is willing to sell everything he believes in just to sit in that
chair should not be sitting in it."

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NEXT STEPS
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4. (SBU) President Peres, in accordance with the Basic Law,
immediately began consulting with all the Knesset faction leaders to
determine if there is another Member of the Knesset (MK) who could
gain the support of a majority in parliament. We consider it very
unlikely that there is such an MK, which means Peres probably will
inform the Knesset Speaker on October 29 that he will not tap
another MK to try to form a government. His declaration means that
within 21 days MKs can request via majority vote that Peres assign a
named MK the task of forming a government. If no request is made,
as we expect, Peres would then inform the Speaker that he sees no
possibility of a government being formed. Following such an
announcement, the Knesset is deemed to have dissolved itself. Prime
Minister Olmert would continue in his post and elections would be
scheduled for February 10, according to the requirements in the
Basic Law.

5. (U) Kadima, meantime, is looking for elections to take place even
earlier. Kadima members are planning to submit this week
legislation calling on the Knesset to dissolve itself and specifying
January 27 as the date for elections. Several other dissolution
bills have been drafted but have not been formally submitted.

CUNNINGHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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