By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, JPOST.COM STAFF
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday evening called Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni "a serial unity refuser," after her party unanimously rejected his offer to join a national unity government.
"Livni is a serial unity refuser â€¦ I am still determined to expand the government in light of the national challenges we are facing," Netanyahu told his advisers.
Earlier, his spokesman told Channel 2 that Netanyahu would not conduct further negotiations with Kadima on the opposition party joining an expanded national unity government.
Following Kadima's announcement, a communiqué from the Prime Minister's Office stated that "Netanyahu regretted hearing that Kadima, under Livni's leadership, rejected his proposal to expand the national unity government. In face of theâ€¦ challenges Israel is facing, the prime minister hoped the stance would be different."
Earlier on Monday, Livni accused Netanyahu of "arrogance" and a cynical use of the threats Israel is facing after her faction voted to reject the premier's current offer to join a national unity government.
"Today hope beat the cynicism and the truth beat narrow politics," she told a press conference. "We saw a peak in cynicism from a man who is unfortunately prime minister, and we saw it in a week when the country was waiting with bated breath to hear about the fate of a soldier.
"We saw the cynical use of threats for political reasons, to quickly bring-in parts of Kadima. It is inappropriate for a prime minister to do such a thing," Livni added. "We're thankfully not in state of war, but unfortunately we're not in a state of peace either."
She also accused the prime minister of a "brutal use of threats" against what is Israel's largest party.
"I restrained myself in the face of this political bullying because [Kadima founder Ariel] Sharon said restraint is strength," Livni continued. "Whoever thinks threats impact my decisions does not know me."
She claimed that Netanyahu only made an offer to Kadima at all "because he did not succeed in splitting up the party."
In spite of this, Livni said that she had met the prime minister on Sunday out of an obligation to hear him and what kind of partnership he was proposing.
"But I didn't get a serious answer to any of my questions," said Livni
Hinting that the issue was by no means closed, however, the Kadima head said, "Everything has a time and place."
"She is the last person who can preach after she held a political parlor meeting during the war while missiles were falling," sources close to the prime minister said in response to Livni's criticism.
Kadima had earlier issued a statement rejecting Netanyahu's offer, while calling for "serious negotiations" between the Likud and Kadima on the possibility of joining a national unity government.
All of Kadima's parliamentarians voted against the premier's proposal at the end of the faction meeting on Monday afternoon, including MKs Ronit Tirosh and Otniel Schneller.
However, the statement said that they were all in favor of the idea of joining a national unity government, just not under the conditions currently set by Netanyahu.
The statement stressed that a unity government would have "many advantages," while emphasizing that "national unity" is not a "flowery phrase empty of meaning, but a commitment to real partnership."
It went on to say that the faction could not accept Netanyahu's offer, since it merely showed respect to him, and "not to the Knesset's largest faction or to a responsibility to advance its vision and its principles, which include leading a peace process and changing the system of government."
As expected, during the Kadima meeting, Mofaz once again urged Livni to call primaries - in his opinion, the only way to "keep the party united."
"As I told Livni a few days ago, you don't build leadership with arrogance or conceit," Mofaz said, in an apparent reference to the Thursday meeting in which he had criticized Livni's leadership of the party.
He stayed adamant that "Netanyahu's offer is arrogant."
A complacent defense minister did not resist the opportunity to needle the tormented opposition party at the end of his faction meeting on Monday afternoon.
When asked on his opinion regarding the debate taking place "two doors down," i.e. in the Kadima faction room, Defense Minister Ehud Barak replied "wonderful, wonderful, wonderful" in a reference to Livni's repeated interruptions of MK Shaul Mofaz as he attempted to present his diplomatic plan to Kadima last month.
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