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'Bayit Yehudi to blame for Livni joining gov't 1st'
By LAHAV HARKOV
20/02/2013
Senior Likud source says Bayit Yehudi shouldn't see move as reason not to enter coalition, Bennett was offered to be first partner.
 
Nothing is stopping the Bayit Yehudi from entering the coalition but themselves, and the offer for them to join the government still stands, a senior Likud source said Wednesday morning.

"As it says in the coalition agreement with The Tzipi Livni Party, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will stand at the head of a Ministerial Committee for Peace talks that will outline our policies in diplomatic negotiations," the source said.

After Livni joined the coalition, becoming Justice Minister and chief negotiator with the Palestinians, the Bayit Yehudi said her agreement with Netanyahu alienates the party.

“A government with one of the major supporters of the Gaza disengagement, who is in favor of dividing Jerusalem, is not a right-wing government,” the party stated.

In a Tzipi Livni Party faction meeting Wednesday, Livni said that her criticism of Netanyahu from the last government still stands.

"This time, it's different, because Netanyahu put us in [the coalition] first," she explained. "The question of what the government will look like is still open. It's not a matter of portfolios or jobs, it's the ability to influence the government's decisions."

She added that the Justice Ministry will allow her party to promote its worldview and prevent extremism.

"Bayit Yehudi can only complain to itself," the source added. "They were given an offer to be the first partner in the Netanyahu government, and in the meantime, they are breaking a clear promise to voters."

"Instead of joining the Netanyahu government and giving the national camp a majority, they are sticking with Yesh Atid."

Bayit Yehudi's Central Committee is set to meet on Wednesday evening, where party leader Naftali Bennett is expected to make comments on the coalition, and ask the committee to give him the power to appoint ministers.

MK Eli Ben Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) responded to the criticism, saying that Likud Beytenu's religious Zionist members repeated in the campaign that there must be a strong ruling party so they can influence the government's policies.
 
"I'm sorry to say that signing an agreement with Livni proves their influence is very small," Ben Dahan stated. "I call for them and all the heads of regional councils in Judea and Samaria to prevent putting talks with the Palestinians in Livni's hands and prevent forming a left-wing government."

Likud Beytenu refused to talk to the Bayit Yehudi about principles in negotiations, and now they're continuing to push the latter farther away from the government, the MK added.

Meanwhile, at the Tzipi Livni Party faction meeting, the tension was palpable between MKs Amir Peretz and Amram Mitzna, after it became apparent last night that Peretz would be Environmental Protection Minister, even though he is third on party list, while Mitzna, number two on the list, will be a Knesset committee chairman.

Before the meeting officially began, Peretz informed Livni Party faction chairman MK Meir Sheetrit that it was Mitzna's 68th birthday.

"Well, at least he'll get a cake," Sheetrit joked in reference to the ministerial issue, though, in reality, he did not hear about the birthday early enough to order refreshments.

Soon after, Mitzna entered the faction room, and ignored Peretz's outstretched hand when he approached to say happy birthday, only answering "yes" laconically.

The senior Likud source said the Bayit Yehudi shouldn't see Livni as a reason not to enter the government, pointing out that the party is aligning itself in coalition talks with Yesh Atid, whose leader Yair Lapid also supported pulling out from Gaza in 2005, when he was a columnist and talk-show host.
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