Even in the Byzantine world of Israeli politics, it came as news that the head of the Hatnua Party, Tzipi Livni, decided to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in its attempt to form a coalition.
Livni, who is far to the left of Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitunu colaition, was seen as a rival to the prime minister; her party’s poor showing in the recent elections, garnering only six seats in the Knesset, forced her to either join Netanyahu’s coalition or be further marginalized.
Netanyahu has other parties to woo: Meir Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which is center-left, and Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party, which is to the right of Netanyahu, have been cooperating.
Livni, who had been highly critical of Netanyahu for being hard-line in the past, will serve as Justice Minister and will head Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians, although the negotiations will still be supervised by the prime minister. Any agreement Livni could reach still has to win the government’s approval.
Livni’s personal ambition outweighed her loyalty to her party; she agreed to join Netanyahu without informing her party’s faction members. Livni had said previously that she would not join Netanyahu without other left-center parties but now feels the immediacy of the problems Israel faces can’t wait:
The commitment to (peace) negotiations led to a partnership. Two and a half months ago my colleagues and I formed Hatnua, and we vowed to fight for a diplomatic agreement, even if it doesn’t pay off politically. This led to a partnership with the prime minister after I was (given the necessary authority) to negotiate with the aim of ending the conflict with the Palestinians. The diplomatic issue is at the center of our lives. This is what is bringing the president of the United States (to the region). Hamas controls Gaza and wants to take over the West Bank. This could lead to the loss of the State of Israel’s Jewish identity. We need to work on the issues of equalizing the share of the burden. It is no less important than working on Iran, Syria and the Palestinian issues. I am here to exhaust every option that might lead to peace. I can only hope that the coalition will indeed be wide.
Netanyahu spoke in similar terms:
I wish to make it clear that the threats from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah do not stop for a minute, and in order to provide an answer to these threats we must form a broad and stable government that unites the nation. In addition to our commitment to security, we must also make an effort to advance the peace process with the Palestinians. Livni will be a senior partner in the effort to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians aimed at achieving peace between to nation states.
Netanyahu has 28 days to form a coalition; his wooing of Livni puts pressure on parties remaining outside the coalition to climb aboard before it’s too late.