Benjamin Netanyahu was prepared to “rotate” the prime ministership with then-Kadima leader Tzipi Livni after the 2009 elections, Tzachi Hanegbi, who led coalition negotiations with Netanyahyu’s Likud on behalf of Kadima, told The Times of Israel.
Kadima won 28 seats in those elections, to the Likud’s 27, but Netanyahu was tasked with forming the government as the leader most likely to be able to form a coalition. Hanegbi and the Likud’s Gideon Sa’ar oversaw the negotiations on a possible Likud-Kadima parternship.
“Netanyahu was willing to agree to serve as prime minister for 3 years, and then Livni would serve for 1.5 years,” Hanegbi said in an interview. “It drew little attention at the time, but it’s a fact. I can testify to that because I represented Kadima there.”
The talks fell apart, however, on the issue of negotiations with the Palestinians. Livni, who had led the talks as foreign minister in the previous government of Ehud Olmert, “insisted that the government would continue [in talks with the Palestinians] from the point where the previous negotiations, in Annapolis [in 2007], left off.. This is what Bibi [Netanyahu] refused to agree to.”
Still, allowed Hanegbi, Livni “was not very upset” about the deadlock with Netanyahu, since “she was also not really interested in forming a government with him.” Instead, Livni went into the opposition, lost the leadership of Kadima, set up a new party, Hatnua, ran in the 2013 elections with a campaign that emphasized the imperative to oust the prime minister, won six seats, and was the first party leader to sign a coalition agreement with the again victorious Netanyahu.
Said Hanegbi: “She learned her lesson. She learned from experience that she had made a mistake.”
Peace talks, barely held during Netanyahu 2009-13 term, resumed in July, with Livni leading the negotiations — albeit under the prime minister’s direction, and certainly not from the point under which they broke off during Olmert’s prime ministership.
As for Hanegbi, he bolted Kadima and returned to the Likud prior to January’s elections, where he is now regarded as one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants.