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Barak to Join Ariel Sharon in National Unity GovernmentAired February 15, 2001 - 4:11 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: From the Mid-East today, there are reports of what might seem to be a rather surprising pairing of victor and defeated. Joining us now from Jerusalem is CNN's Jerrold Kessel is covering the story.
Jerrold, explain to us, is what is happening here a coalition government, a unity government, what does this mean?
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rather surprising, you're right, and bitterly opposed by some within the defeated Labor Party of Ehud Barak. Israel's outgoing prime minister announcing just a short while ago that his Labor Party will, although at least conditionally, will agree to go into a national unity government with the man who won so resounding a victory over Mr. Barak last week in the election for prime minister, right-ringer Ariel Sharon.
Now, Mr. Barak has not stated publicly that he will accept Mr. Sharon's offer to become the defense minister or to go on being the defense minister under the -- in the national unity government, but that does seem to be what he's intending to do. There are those who are bitterly opposed to it. But that is what is going to happen.
Israel, probably as early as next week, will have a broad national coalition under Mr. Sharon, but with Mr. Barak as the defense minister. They've been talking a lot about how they can work together with their divergent views on peace making with the Palestinians, but it seems in the first instance, given the current state of relations with the Palestinians, that what this national unity government will be bracing to do is to face up together in a confrontation against the Palestinians.
CHEN: Jerrold, I have to ask you to answer this quickly, but can you tell us why either of these men, who were in such a bitter, bitter race, why they would want the other as a partner?
KESSEL: It is a very good question. From Mr. Sharon's point of view, it's actually fairly easy to explain. He has a pretty awful image, both within the Arab world, in the Middle East and internationally. Mr. Barak joining him will give him a sense of solidarity, change that hard-line image or soften it.
It will also mean they can stand together very much unified in what is expected to be a period of confrontation with the Palestinians. They do get on well together, and Mr. Barak could also be a buffer if they are to undertake some difficult and also unpopular decisions in the world community vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
From Mr. Barak's position, a little more difficult to explain because he was so resoundingly defeated. Some have said he should step down and get out of public life, at least for this stage.
But he has done a reversal. They call it a zigzag here in Israel, but seems to find this the best way to fight his back into politics and he also believes he can offer Ariel Sharon a lot in that projected possible confrontation coming up with the Palestinians.
Difficult times ahead. They believe they should do it together in a unified way in Israel -- Joie.
CHEN: CNN's Jerrold Kessel reporting to us from Jerusalem.
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