Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has invited opposition Labour leader Shimon Peres to begin talks on forming a coalition government. Sharon made the call after getting the green light from his Likud party in a poll yesterday. Although Likud hardliners are against the prime minister’s Gaza withdrawal plan, it seems a majority of party members voted in favour of talks with Israel’s leading dove to avoid early elections.
Peres welcomed the chance to work on the Washington-backed plan: “It is a good start. I hope we shall be able to move ahead in the direction of peace. It is not easy, it is not simple, but it is promising, it is the right step,” he said. Sharon’s coalition was shattered last week when he sacked the centrist Shinui party for voting against next year’s budget.
With Labour on board he could once again have a majority in parliament, and if the budget is passed by March he could avoid early elections. Coalition talks are expected to begin on Sunday. Polls show most Israelis are in favour of the Gaza withdrawal plan, but some Jewish settlers took to the streets upon hearing the result of the Likud vote. They know an alliance with Labour could mean opponents of the plan being drowned out, and them being forced from their homes.