Enter Bivni, Israel’s new high-powered politicouple
Hebrew media review

Enter Bivni, Israel’s new high-powered politicouple

The marriage of Likud and Hatnua in the coalescing coalition turns heads in the press

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Move aside, Brangelina (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Move aside, Brangelina (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Israel’s new star couple are the talk of the town on Wednesday. Move aside Brangelina, here comes Bivni. Unfortunately, not many people are thrilled by the new celebrity pair (they’re just jealous).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni shook hands Tuesday after Livni announced that her party would be the first to join the governing coalition. Livni will serve as justice minister and top negotiator with the Palestinians.

“From rivals to partners,” Israel Hayom calls the former opposition leader’s agreement to work with Netanyahu. It reports that the two leaders hammered out the deal over 10 days of one-on-one talks. Senior Likud-Beytenu officials told the paper that “Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett had the opportunity to sign first, but he missed it.”

But even on Netanyahu’s home court, not everyone is elated about Jerusalem’s new couple. The paper’s columnist, Dan Margalit, writes that this development “will strengthen the feeling in the hearts of generations of young Israelis that politicians are irreparably cynical.”

“Thousands of civics classes will not help to correct this terrible impression,” he says. “The leaders of Hatnua deserve every bad word they hear from their voters and their rivals, and from the general public.”

At least Livni’s imminent appointment to the Justice Ministry is a “breath of fresh air,” for Margalit deems her to be on the side of the “sons of light” when it comes to legal matters.

Maariv reports that senior Jewish Home officials were less than amused by Livni and Bibi’s new partnership. They felt like the belle who got passed over for the ball, and they said her participation in the coalition damages the chances that Jewish Home would come to the dance at all.

“To entrust the management of negotiations with she who ran talks about dividing Jerusalem and who was responsible for the disengagement [from the Gaza Strip in 2005] — it will no doubt be difficult for the Jewish Home to enter the coalition,” they are quoted as saying.

“While we presented our stances on settlements, and we waited for answers from Likud, Netanyahu was apparently busy closing policy positions with Tzipi Livni and Amir Peretz,” they added.

Other Jewish Home members reminded the paper of Netanyahu’s campaign promise not to allow Livni to play any role in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Columnist Shalom Yerushalmi also calls Livni’s power play “political cynicism” in his column. He says that Livni understood she didn’t have a “real party,” nor a national movement with tradition, nor sufficient power to make a difference in the opposition.

“And therefore she decided to grab what there was, to kick all the principles, all the values, all the conventions on which she raised a generation of fools that trusted in her, and enter a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, whom her friends swore not to ever sit with,” he writes.

The same person whom Livni swore for years was leading the country to disaster is now her bedmate, he says with tangible disgust. “There is apparently no limit to political cynicism.” He says that with Livni and the soon-to-join ultra-Orthodox parties and Kadima, Likud will already have 57 seats. All that remains is for either Jewish Home or Yesh Atid to break their pact and join up, or for the Labor Party to be enticed into the coalition.

Yossi Verter takes the stand as a Livni apologist in Haaretz, saying she is no less trustworthy and cynical than the rest of the politicians in the Israeli political arena.

“There is no need to disparage the prize she won for being the first to sign onto the coalition. Her choice was either to wither in the opposition and end up in an unmarked political grave or to try and jumpstart some diplomatic process,” he writes. Even if she’s ineffectual as a subordinate to Netanyahu, “Livni will be able at least to say she tried; not for her own sake, of course, but for the country’s sake, for our children’s sake.”

The paper also quotes Likud officials involved in the coalition talks as saying that Livni’s was the “first domino” to fall, and that Shas and Kadima were expected to follow suit.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads its coverage of Livni’s Likud link-up with the facts that “Hatnua promised not to enter a government headed by Netanyahu, which it called a ‘disaster for Israel, ‘and Likud promised not to let Livni touch diplomatic negotiations, ‘because of her reckless management of the issue.'” Despite the promises, the deal was forged. Whereas Israel Hayom reports the negotiations were between Netanyahu and Livni behind closed doors, Yedioth reports that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman sat in on some of those meetings.

Columnist Sima Kadmon expresses her unchecked disgust with Livni in her Yedioth column. “We have every right to let feelings of revulsion rise in our throats,” she says, “the same disgust that Livni tried to fight with her clean politics.” She calls Livni a sell-out who became precisely what she said she wouldn’t: a fig leaf for a Netanyahu government.

“It’s so bizarre, so incomprehensible, that she who four years ago, with a 28-seat party, refused to enter a government with the claim that she wouldn’t be able to influence [politics], today, with six seats, without guidelines and without knowing who her partners will be, projects full confidence that she’ll be able to advance a peace agreement,” Kadmon writes.

The Israeli press is of course still reporting on the daily minutiae that emerge in the Ben Zygier affair. The headlines on Wednesday focus on a Der Spiegel report, which names two of Zygier’s Australian Mossad colleagues as Paul Y. and David Z., and mentions that Zygier had Iranian stamps in his passport.

Two prison officers and two guards may stand trial for suspected negligence in Zygier’s death, Maariv reports.

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