Livni Joins Netanyahu’s Coalition
Tzipi Livni is set to be the so-called “Israeli” justice minister under the first coalition agreement since the January 22 general election, which was signed Tuesday between “Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Livni’s “Hatnuah” party.
In televised remarks, Netanyahu said the union with Livni was intended to create a “broad and stable government that unites the people.”
He said he wanted to face down what he called the “tremendous challenges” posed by Iran’s nuclear program and unrest in neighboring Arab states.
Netanyahu said “Israel” must “make every effort to promote a responsible peace process with the Palestinians,” adding that he hoped for a resumption of the talks that were suspended over “Israeli” construction in West Bank settlements.
Livni, 54, cited a “strategic and moral imperative to leave no stone unturned, to exhaust any possibility and become a part of any government that commits to bringing peace” as her reason for deciding to join the coalition.
At a joint press conference Livni and Netanyahu stressed that their mutual goals had trumped their disagreements and paved the way for the agreement.
“We are joining the government first because Iran, Syria and the Palestinians are no less urgent that sharing the burden and the high cost of living,” Livni said.
Netanyahu said the two had agreed “to set our differences aside and overcome old rivalries to combine forces for the sake of “Israel”.”
Meanwhile, Livni will join the inner cabinet and will be “Israeli” government’s exclusive negotiator with the Palestinians. Netanyahu will promise not to conduct separate talks to cut Livni out of the process.
“Hatnuah”, which has six Knesset seats, will receive an additional cabinet portfolio, most likely that of environmental protection, according to party sources.
Any agreement reached with the Palestinians will be submitted to a vote in the cabinet and in the Knesset. Party discipline will be suspended, allowing MKs to vote according to their conscience.
Speaking to Haaretz shortly after the announcement Tuesday, Livni said, “I won’t be a fig leaf for the Netanyahu government. I have full authority to run the negotiations” with the Palestinians, she said.
Livni was referring to her campaign promise not to enter a right wing-“Haredi” coalition alone. She said that while such a coalition was possible, it was not up to her.
“In the past, Netanyahu first brought in his natural partners and then turned to us. This time it’s different,” she said, adding that Hatnuah’s being the first party to join the coalition sent a message to other potential coalition partners. “All the extremism that gained expression last time doesn’t exist this time.”
Livni said she was persuaded, after speaking with Netanyahu several times after the election, that he understands the importance of the so-called peace process.
“He is aware of “Israel’s” situation in the world. He is aware of the danger of international isolation. He understands the status quo cannot continue,” Livni said.
Likud officials in charge of coalition negotiations said that in agreeing to join the new government “Hatnuah” was the “first domino” to fall, with Shas and Kadima expected to follow.
Sources close to the Shas coalition negotiations told Haaretz that in the past 48 hours there has been significant progress in talks with the Likud team, but there are still substantial gaps, especially over plans to draft ultra-Orthodox men.
Some members of “Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu” speculated Tuesday that Netanyahu may try to build a coalition of 57 MKs, including “Shas”, “United Torah Judaism”, Hatnuah and Kadima, and then give “Habayit Hayehudi” an ultimatum: Either join the government or call a new election.
They predicted Bennett would come crawling to Netanyahu, adding that Livni’s move severely weakened the bargaining positions of both Bennett and Yair Lapid.”
Source: Haaretz, Edited by moqawama.org