Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon has invited the opposition Labour Party to start talks over joining a new coalition.
Mr Sharon phoned Labour leader Shimon Peres on Friday morning, after winning backing for the move in a vote by his governing Likud Party.
A coalition government between the two main parties, would avert the need for early elections in Israel, and boost Mr Sharon's plans for a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Mr Peres has welcomed the invitation, saying he was hopeful of receiving his party's approval for beginning negotiations to join the government.
What kind of impact would a coalition between Likud and Labour have on the peace process? Is Ariel Sharon right to try to form a new coalition? Should Shimon Peres accept the invitation?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Can Labour stop Sharon from extending the settlements in the West Bank? I sincerely doubt it. Thus, although the coalition might succeed, peace will hardly be secured, the Palestinians (rightly) will not accept giving up even more land in the West Bank.
The only difference, with respect to the Palestinian solution, between Labour and Likud is the spelling of their names. Both parties repress the Palestinians.
Bob, Pittsburgh, USA
The problem with Israel is that it needs electoral reform very seriously before it can withdraw from the Gaza strip. The peace process will never succeed unless the country makes electoral reform its first priority. The country is always having collapsing coalition governments and the Ultra-Orthodox parties are a part of every single coalition government. The extreme system of proportional representation is an example of excessive fragmentation. There are over a dozen political parties in the Israeli Knesset and more wheeling and dealing than one can imagine.
Bob, Los Angeles, CA
In the short term coalition will bring some stability to Israeli political life. However, in long run (after elections), the two parties will split apart. The Labour party will try to push an agenda that pushes for Israeli concessions without the Palestinians doing anything against terror. Likud will take more of a cautious path. So the "zoo" environment will return to Israeli political life shortly.
I think that worrying about one-party rule would be the least of Israel's worries. I hope the coalition will work. Such unity governments have worked before in times of crisis, most notably Churchill's government during the Second World War (a Tory-Labour-Liberal coalition). Labour should join, so as to insure the withdrawal plan proceeds.
Trent Gerrard, San Antonio, TX
This coalition will have a disastrous impact on the peace process because Labour will be dominated by Likud.
Somar Mahmoud, Syria
Such a government is the right solution for Israel at this point. It will help Sharon go through with the pull out from Gaza, and maybe improve the situation with the Palestinians. Only a united Israel can fight terrorism and anti-Semitism, and improve the economy!
Barak, Tel Aviv, Israel
This can only be good news for both Israelis and Palestinians. Only Labour can bring the vision for peace and territorial concessions, only Sharon can enforce it.
Florence Herrero, Marseille, France
Labour has no excuse to stay out of the coalition. It needs to be there in order to assure that the pullout plan goes ahead, which is something that all their voters want. Furthermore, the Labour could help in coordinating the plan with the Palestinian Authority and with Egypt.
A democratic government working together is always better than a democratic government being controlled by a dictator.
A governing coalition between Likud and Labour parties would considerably undermine the salutary spirit of democracy in Israel, for it threatens to create a one-party state. Besides, Mr. Sharon's virtual intransigence on the Palestinian question for most of the past decade will not boost the credibility of such a coalition before the Palestinians and the international community. In a period of war, such as witnessed in 1967 and 1973, such coalition would be quite understandable.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Bronx, New York, USA
Kwame's comments are bizarre. Israel has the misfortune to have proportional representation. In that context, the majority, who wish for disengagement are getting their way. How can this undermine the spirit of democracy?
Alexander, London, UK