Netanyahu wooing Levy to broaden base of support

JERUSALEM, Nov. 24 (JTA) – Seeking to broaden his coalition base, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed that discussions are being held about bringing former Foreign Minister David Levy back into the government. Netanyahu, who faces hard-line opposition within his coalition to the latest land-for-security accord with the Palestinians, said the purpose of the discussions is to build a strong coalition base for implementing the Wye agreement. “We are in the process of working for peace and security for our people,” the prime minister said Tuesday. “I think all this will be better implemented with a strong government.” Netanyahu said that no specific Cabinet portfolios for Levy had been brought up in the discussions, which are currently being conducted via intermediaries. The prime minister did not rule out the formation of a national unity government, though in recent days both he and opposition leader Ehud Barak have denied that any serious discussions were taking place. In light of the ongoing contacts with Levy, Netanyahu said he was considering delaying a scheduled trip to Europe. Levy also confirmed that the discussions are under way. The premier’s longtime political rival said that if it appears that the government is continuing to move in a positive direction, he would convene his Gesher Party to make a decision. Levy left the government in January, citing the Middle East peace deadlock and differences with Netanyahu over social spending. Observers pointed out that should Levy rejoin the coalition, it would not guarantee Gesher’s support for the Wye accord. Though Levy is considered a political moderate, other members of his Gesher faction are leading forces in the Land of Israel Front, a group of hard-line legislators opposed to making any land concessions to the Palestinians.

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