The Tzipi Livni Party became the first partner in Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s next coalition on Tuesday, with Livni to serve as justice minister
and leader of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
“The State of
Israel needs a broad unity government,” Netanyahu said in a joint press
conference with Livni Tuesday night announcing the agreement. “We face
unprecedented challenges from Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah that do not stop for
one minute. In addition to our commitment to security, we must make every effort
to promote a responsible peace with the Palestinians. We need a stable
government uniting the nation to respond.”
The prime minister said Livni
will lead talks for peace between two nation-states, to “end the conflict once
and for all.”
Netanyahu called for parties to “look for what unites us,
not separates us, put aside old rivalries and work together for the
In an apparent reference to Yesh Atid’s unwillingness to sit in
a coalition with haredi parties, the prime minister said now is not the time to
get tougher in negotiations, and that parties should not reject entire
Livni addressed the fact that she spoke out harshly against
Netanyahu in the election campaign and as opposition leader, saying she “took a
political risk and will face criticism, and that’s fine.”
partnership came about after talks, and after I was given the right and
authority to negotiate for Israel to end the conflict with the Palestinians,”
“This reality is bringing the US president to visit next
month. The conflict continues, with Hamas ruling Gaza and hopefully not Judea and Samaria.”
into the coalition is a clear message from the prime minister to US President
Barack Obama that he is serious about the peace process.
Livni is likely
to play a role similar to that of outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak in
smoothing relations between Netanyahu and Obama.
According to the
agreement, Livni will be the chief negotiator with the Palestinians, but will
coordinate with Netanyahu, who is to lead a ministerial committee on the peace
process that will include Livni and the defense and foreign ministers.
addition, Livni will be able to choose her own staff for peace talks, except for
one representative appointed by Netanyahu. The representative is expected to be
the prime minister’s lawyer Yitzhak Molcho, who has been involved in
negotiations with the Palestinians in the past.
Any agreement reached
with the Palestinian Authority will have to be brought to both a ministerial and
a Knesset vote, and even a possible referendum, a condition that may be an
opening for the Bayit Yehudi to be able to enter the coalition.
Bayit Yehudi responded to the announcement of Livni joining the coalition by
saying it alienated the party from the government.
“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.
minister, Livni will be chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation,
whose approval determines whether bills live or die, and she will also be a
member of the Security Cabinet.
Another member of the Livni Party, most
likely Amir Peretz, who is third on the list, will become environmental
protection minister and a member of the Socioeconomic Cabinet.
the election, Peretz switched from Labor to the Livni Party, because at the
time, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich was not committed to staying out of the
Currently, Yacimovich says she will not be in Netanyahu’s
A high-ranking Likud Beytenu source said the faction’s MKs
are pleased with the agreement, because it means there will, in all likelihood,
be one minister to every three MKs.
Likud and Yisrael Beytenu have 19
ministers in the outgoing government.
The Livni Party will also receive
the chairmanship of either a Knesset committee, or of a Foreign Affairs and
Defense subcommittee, which is expected to go to Amram Mitzna, second on the
The basic guideline of the coalition agreement emphasizes the
importance of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country with defensible
In addition, it mentions passing a law to increase equality in
the burden of national service, electoral reform, lowering the costs of housing
and living, and fighting racism.
“The prime minister and I understand the
need to take care of issues like equality in the burden [of service] and the
economy,” Livni said, “but knowing the importance of those issues does not make
security and diplomatic matters less important.”
Shas co-chairman Arye
Deri congratulated Livni, who responded that she hopes to see Shas sign a
coalition agreement in the coming days.
“With her experience, Tzipi Livni
will surely add a lot in dealing with challenges in the coming days,” Deri
“Israel needs a government that will unite the nation and not bring
discourse of rejecting the other.”
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman
(UTJ) denounced the coalition agreement, saying that “the next election may
already have been opened,” and denied reports he was told in advance about the
Meanwhile, Shas and Kadima denied rumors that they are close to
signing coalition agreements.
A Shas source said that although there have
been “significant, advanced” negotiations, the sides have yet to come to an
agreement on haredi enlistment, or budget cuts.
A source close to Kadima
leader Shaul Mofaz said that negotiations have been “static” in recent days, and
while coalition guidelines have been discussed, the talks have not reached the
point of dealing with portfolios.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this