The new Israeli government’s underlying principles will include the “Bush vision” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the founding of a Palestinian state.

This is one of the main points of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to set up a national unity government after the elections.

In every speech and declaration, Sharon continues to say that he is determined to set up a unity government. Even his close associates, in closed meetings, are convinced that such a government will be set up, despite sweeping opposition from many senior figures in the Labor Party.

Right now, it is known that the prime minister has a contingency plan for creating conditions that will not allow the Labor Party to remain outside. “No Zionist Israeli party can ignore such a plan,” one of the prime minister’s confidants told Ma’ariv yesterday. “They will realize that the prime minister’s intentions are genuine and their choice will be to either turn their backs on the country or to join.”

“Bush’s vision” includes the principles of the president’s speech, with the “presidential vision” of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, an end to hostilities, cessation of terrorism and ending the conflict.

Prime Minister Sharon welcomed Bush’s speech, along with the Labor Party’s support. Sharon intends to duplicate the guidelines of the outgoing unity government, add Bush’s vision to them and make them into the basic guidelines of the new government.

Sharon’s associates also hope for aid from Washington: something like a declaration by senior members of the American administration expressing concern over setting up a narrow, right-wing government in Israel. It could be that if the war with Iraq ends quickly and successfully, contacts could begin for a possible visit of President Bush to the region, during which the resumption of the peace process, in line with the president’s vision, could be announced.

In addition, members of the Likud are holding discreet contacts with members of the Labor Party. Sharon’s associates derived encouragement yesterday from statements by Shimon Peres, who said that the main obstacle to a unity government are differences between the Likud’s platform and Labor’s. The inclusion of Bush’s vision in the next government will obviate that point, Sharon’s associates said.

People in the Prime Minister’s Bureau believe that the Labor Party cannot afford to remain outside. Members of the bureau said that the Kibbutz Movement will apply heavy pressure to join a unity government.

Senior figures in the Kibbutz Movement have already hinted at this in discreet contacts that have taken place. “The kibbutzim are entering a decisive year, a year in which they cannot remain outside the government,” members of the Prime Minister’s Bureau said.

Also, Labor Party local authority leaders will not be happy to find themselves in the opposition during a municipal election year. “In the end, public responsibility will win out,” members of Sharon’s bureau said yesterday. “The Labor Party is a responsible Zionist party. If it refuses to take part in government during such a significant year, it will not be able to evade responsibility afterward.”

This article ran on the January 24th, 2003 issue of Maariv