Exclusive: Livni wants Likud as partner if Kadima wins

"I came from the Right and I’m still on the Right in the national context," Kadima leader tells ‘The Jerusalem Post.’

Livni close up 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Livni close up 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
If Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party perform well enough in the next elections to be asked to form a government, she would ask the Likud to be her coalition partner, Livni has told The Jerusalem Post.
“Certainly if I am given the mandate to form a government, I would invite the Likud to be my partner,” the opposition leader said in an extensive interview, “but on a path that I would set out – both as regards an accord with the Palestinians and as regards national content.
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Today’s Likud understands the political price it is paying for the historic partnership with the haredim.”
Livni detailed her intermittent contacts with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since the February 2009 elections over terms for a Likud-Kadima partnership, which she argued would best serve the national interest.
Apart from finding common ground for progress with the Palestinians, Livni said a partnership between their two “national, liberal parties” could also have “written the first chapter in the constitution of Israel. We could have introduced national content, core curricula for all, an equalizing of the [military and social] burden, all of those things.
“From the time this government was established, on almost a daily basis,” she said, “I asked myself, is there no substantive process [with the Palestinians] because the prime minister doesn’t want to pay the price involved in an agreement or because he can’t move ahead for political reasons?” Over time, she came to believe that although Netanyahu had publicly endorsed a two-state solution, he had done so “without real intent, without the drive, without the [sense of imperative] that we have to reach an agreement and to pay those prices, because otherwise the option for the Jewish state will be worse. Rather,” in her assessment, “he saw and analyzed the processes, the American pressure for negotiations, the need to start speaking in those terms.”
As recently as late spring, she said, “I initiated another discussion with him on the issue... I said to him, in order to stop the international trend against Israel, you have to decide for yourself first if you’re prepared to pay the price of an accord. If not, there’s no point in continuing this discussion. If yes, there has to be an accompanying political drama, whereby you exchange your coalition for a coalition in which there is a majority for an agreement...
“I don’t want to go into too many details, but I initiated [these conversations] on more than one occasion – every time I thought there was a chance, maybe, but that he felt himself constrained politically. He didn’t want it.”
An agreement with the Palestinians will always “constitute a position that is not the classical right-wing position,” she said.
“I see his lack of willingness to advance, and I understand where he stands.”
She said Netanyahu could and should have approved an extension of the settlement freeze, that his coalition would not have been affected, and that it had been a bad mistake to rebuff a US presidential request to that effect.
Livni reiterated her conviction that it was possible to reach an accord with the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas. In the nine months of talks she oversaw with former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei, she said, “we managed...to understand the mutual sensitivities, what needed to be overcome, and to reach a mutual conclusion that an accord was possible... We did not exhaust that process.”
Livni acknowledged that “There are all the reasons in the world to give up, to despair – when you see their textbooks, when you hear some of the things they say, when you read some of the articles. And by the way, they could say the same about us.
“I simply think that given the choice of options, giving up now on the effort to reach an accord would be bad for the Jewish state, physically and in every other way. In my opinion, only an Israeli leadership that fully appreciates this will reach an agreement. Whoever doesn’t fully internalize the threat that is being posed to the existence of the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people in the absence of an accord, will find all the reasons [not to reach one]. And whoever believes that the option of two national states represents the Israeli interest, will find the ways to overcome the problems.”
She added that Abbas’s failure to respond positively to then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace offer should not be seen as any kind of barometer of Abbas’s intentions.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “And I think Olmert feels the same.”