Netanyahu Makes Last-Ditch Efforts to Avoid Right-Wing Government in Israel

The man who will probably be Israel's prime minister is trying to cobble together a unity government.

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By Larry Derfner, Mideast Watch

When he takes office as prime minister, very likely in the next few weeks, Binyamin Netanyahu would like to have a party flanking him to the left in a national unity government, but the centrist Kadima party is balking because Netanyahu will not commit to negotiations toward a Palestinian state, while the Labor Party, which did extremely poorly in the February 10 election, fears extinction if it serves as the fig leaf for a right-wing, Netanyahu-led coalition. However, there are people within Kadima and Labor who want to join the government, so Netanyahu isn't giving up on his goal. He is focusing on recruiting Ehud Barak, a former Labor prime minister, in particular. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Netanyahu told the Likud faction that he would do everything possible to build as wide a government as possible as soon as possible.

"The country needs a government," Netanyahu said. "We will build one soon because the events, the reality, the Kassams, the Iranian nuclear threat and the unemployment are not waiting for us. I haven't given up my hope to build a wide government. I met with Barak and will meet again with him. I hope this effort bears fruit."

On H is W ay O ut, Olmert T old to E xpect F raud I ndictment

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received an unwanted farewell gesture from Attorney General Meni Mazuz: official notice of intent to indict him for fraud, pending the mandatory preliminary meeting with his lawyers to hear their arguments. Unless his lawyers can talk Mazuz out of it, which is considered highly unlikely, Olmert, whose three-year tenure has been dogged by various corruption scandals, reportedly will be indicted for fraud in connection with hundreds of thousands of dollars he received in envelopes from Long Island financier Morris Talansky. Ha'aretz reports:

In a letter to Olmert's attorneys, Mazuz stated that he believes the Prime Minister had methodically abused his public office and his status to acquire personal favors from Talansky over a period of time. Mazuz wrote Olmert obtained financial favors in exchange for assisting Talansky in his business ventures, while being in a conflict of interests. . . .

Olmert was suspected of using the money to cover his campaigns and travel expenses.

Through the period of the alleged exchanges with Talansky, Olmert first served as the mayor of Jerusalem, and then as a minister in Ariel Sharon's governments.