Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Saturday evening called on the Labor Party to join the coalition to counter the influence of the hawkish Jewish Home party and show support for the peace process with the Palestinians.
Labor’s chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich has repeatedly promised that should the government’s right flank threaten to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a peace deal with the Palestinians, Labor would shore up the coalition.
“There’s an opportunity now and there’s a diplomatic process,” said Livni, who leads Israel’s negotiating team, according to Channel 10. “That’s why it isn’t enough to make speeches about the need for an agreement.
“The Labor Party must be courageous and join the government in order to help advance it [the peace process],” she added.
Livni, who was addressing the crowd at a conference in Nesher, outside Haifa, alluded to her recent public spat with ministers from Jewish Home, who assigned her the blame for the early release of 26 Palestinian inmates, the second phase in a series of four releases timed to coincide with the peace talks.
If Labor joined the coalition now, the justice minister suggested, Jewish Home would be forced out, making way for a more dovish cabinet and a better shot at a peace deal.
“Now there’s a chance that we may miss because of the coalition makeup imposed by [Finance Minister Yair] Lapid when he brought Jewish Home into the government,” she said, in a reference to Lapid’s pact with Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett during coalition talks in the wake of January’s elections.
Earlier Saturday, Yachimovich, the Labor Party leader, reiterated that her party would provide a “safety net” for Netanyahu should Jewish Home bolt the coalition over the peace process.
However, she asserted, Labor would not “crawl into” the government under her leadership as it had under that of her predecessor at the helm of the party, Ehud Barak, who served as defense minister in Netanyahu’s previous government.
At a faction meeting of the Jewish Home party last Monday, Bennett claimed his party was “under attack” for opposing the prisoner release and voting against it in the cabinet.
At Hatnua’s faction meeting that same day, Livni called out Jewish Home for seeking to place the blame for the prisoner release in her lap, and accused Bennett’s party of “hypocrisy,” ostensibly for remaining in the coalition despite the decision to release the inmates, and “self-righteousness.”