Speculation heating up about unity government

JERUSALEM — Speculation is growing in Israel over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form a national unity government to put the peace process back on track.

The speculation increased in the wake of media reports Sunday of a secret meeting two weeks ago between Netanyahu and opposition leader Shimon Peres to discuss a unity government.

In interviews over the weekend, Netanyahu said he would "soon decide" whether to form a national unity government.

Netanyahu acknowledged Friday of last week that he is seeking a "national consensus" before launching into the final-status negotiations with the Palestinians.

He indicated that his current coalition government might not give him the support he needs to reach a final agreement with the Palestinians.

"We are talking about the most fateful negotiations in the history of the state," Netanyahu told Israel Television.

Although a final-status arrangement "may have public support, it doesn't mean that it will gain support in the Knesset, and that question is what's guiding me."

Communications Minister Limor Livnat expressed surprise at the latest reports. Livnat told Israel Radio that she, and other Cabinet ministers, had not been consulted by Netanyahu.

Peres, who returns from a trip to South America this week, is expected to meet with fellow Labor Party members to discuss the matter.