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Barak: Israel's Labor party heading to opposition
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19:30, February 23, 2009

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Israeli left-wing Labor party chairman Ehud Barak said on Monday after meeting with center-right party leader Benjamin Netanyahu that Labor will go to the opposition camp, local news service Ynet reported.

"The voter sent Labor to the opposition, and that's where we'll go," said Barak, also Israeli Defense Minister, after the meeting at a Jerusalem hotel.

In the Feb. 10 parliamentary election, Labor got 13 Knesset (parliament) seats, skidding to its lowest position in the Knesset.

Netanyahu, who has been assigned the task of forming Israel's next coalition government, on the other hand, said after the meeting that "I have not given up on the efforts to form a wide government in light of the challenges, led by Iran."

The prime minister-designate added that he will meet with centrist Kadima party chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Barak once again.

Late Sunday night, Netanyahu and Livni, also Israeli Foreign Minister, held coalition discussions in Jerusalem which the former described as positive and the latter as negative.

However, the two leaders decided to continue meeting in the next few days, in an effort to forge a national unity government.

Netanyahu, who said throughout the campaign that he wanted Kadima, Labor, or both in his government, fears the ramifications of a right-wing government and is therefore trying hard to form a wide coalition.

"He really does not like the idea of a narrow government," said a source close to Netanyahu. "As opposed to some of his advisors, he believes a narrow right-wing government is wrong from a political point of view, as well as from the public's point of view."

On Friday, Israeli President Shimon Peres officially entrusted Netanyahu with the task of building a coalition, ten days after the parliamentary election.

Netanyahu, who was previously the 9th prime minister of Israel from June 1996 to July 1999, would then have 42 days to forge a coalition cabinet. Until the new government is formed, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was forced to resign amid a corruption scandal, will remain in office as caretaker premier.


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