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Bennett: Joining coalition possible despite Livni
By GIL HOFFMAN AND LAHAV HARKOV
20/02/2013
Bayit Yehudi head mocks Livni’s ability to reach a deal with Abbas; Yishai holds talks with Lapid, accuses him of leaking meeting.
 
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to conduct coalition negotiations with his party, despite a deal made a day earlier with The Tzipi Livni Party.

Bennett came under pressure from within Bayit Yehudi to shun Netanyahu after the prime minister broke a campaign promise not to allow Livni to be involved in negotiations with the Palestinians.

But in a speech at a Bayit Yehudi convention at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, Bennett instead sent an olive branch to the man for whom he once served as chief of staff.

“The negotiations are on the prime minister’s shoulder and we want to give him a hand,” Bennett said. “For decades we were natural partners. In the campaign, we were blatantly smeared. Something in our partnership unraveled, but it is not too late to fix it.”

Bennett mocked Livni’s ability to reach a deal with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, since she has nothing to show for her four years of negotiations with the Palestinians. He accused her of making concessions in Jerusalem and settlement blocs, allegations Livni immediately denied.

Calling upon Netanyahu to make his party a real partner, Bennett said it would not be a disaster if Bayit Yehudi remained in the opposition.

Bennett’s understanding with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid on joining the coalition together has made it harder for Netanyahu to build his government. During Bennett’s speech, a heckler accused Lapid of being a leftist but was immediately hushed.

A senior Likud source said nothing was stopping Bayit Yehudi from entering the coalition but itself, and an offer made to it last week to join the government still stands. The source said the Bayit Yehudi should not see Livni as a reason not to enter the government, pointing out that the party is aligning itself in coalition talks with Lapid, who also supported pulling out from the Gaza Strip in 2005, when he was a columnist and talk show host.

“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.

“Bayit Yehudi can only complain to itself. 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.”

Shas leader Eli Yishai spoke with Lapid at the Knesset on Tuesday in a meeting described as friendly. Yishai angrily accused Lapid of leaking the meeting to the press.

“Whoever wants to advance change and political cooperation, especially at this time, must do so at a distance from the eyes of the media,” Yishai said.

In a speech at the Knesset, United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman said other parties have tried and failed to force yeshiva students into the IDF and Yesh Atid will fail as well.

Netanyahu also met Wednesday night with Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz.

Both sides said the meeting went well and they are close to reaching an agreement, but there are still gaps on key issues, including how to equalize the burden of service.
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