Israel’s opposition has begun talks with the ruling Likud party on joining the government. The meeting started as celebrations for the Jewish festival of lights or Hanukkah were underway in Israel.
Labour leader Shimon Peres said he thought a deal could be clinched within days. “The will of the people is to have a unity government whose main goal is to carry out the Gaza pullout,” he said, referring to prime minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to evacuate all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and a handful in the West Bank next year. Sharon needs Labour to form a new coalition and avoid early elections after he sacked his former partners from the centrist Shinui party when they rejected his 2005 budget. It is hoped Labour’s entry into Sharon’s coalition will also help resume Middle East peace talks after the Palestinians elect a new president in January.