Livni hints at joining Likud coalition

But only if Netanyahu-led government pursues peace; Yachimovich says Hatnua leader is ‘carving out a seat’ in the next cabinet

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party, January 2013. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party, January 2013. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday continued to send out feelers regarding the option of joining forces with the Likud-Beytenu party in a future coalition, maintaining, however, that she would only be willing to sign on if the government earnestly engages in peace talks with the Palestinians.

If her party is to join the next government — which polls predict will be led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu and dominated by other right-wing parties — it must engage in a “real peace process and not just give negotiations lip service,” Livni told Israel Radio.

The former foreign minister, whose Hatnua party is predicted to win five to nine seats in the January 22 elections, added that she will demand a position that gives her significant influence on the peace process.

The statements are an apparent softening of Livni’s position, who has until now focused her election campaign on trying to form a center-left bloc with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and the Labor Party, which would serve as a counterweight to Likud-Beytenu either inside or outside the coalition.

Last week, she indicated that she would only join a Netanyahu-led government together with other partners from the center-left.

The Hatnua leader’s Sunday comments drew sharp condemnation from Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich, who accused Livni on Israel Radio of “trying to carve out a seat in the next government.”

Livni, a former foreign minister who headed the opposition for three years before losing the Kadima party leadership post to Shaul Mofaz, reportedly intimated in the past that she would be open to joining Netanyahu’s government if given responsibility for negotiations with the Palestinians.

On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon of Likud said that the next government would seek to form a broad national unity coalition to prevent it being manipulated by smaller parties. Ya’alon said the next coalition would not rule out any partner, but questioned Livni’s fitness for making peace with the Palestinians.

“Livni experienced [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas’s refusals. Her election signs say she will bring hope and peace? That’s an illusion, and they invent new illusions for us every time,” Ya’alon said.

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