Netanyahu Meets With Livni, Sen. Lieberman Visits Israel


netanyahu1Prime minister-designate and Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu began his efforts to form a national unity government when he met Kadima chairman Tzipi Livni tonight in Yerushalayim as voices within Kadima appeared increasingly split on the prospect of joining a coalition led by Netanyahu. Joining a Likud government would be a breach of Kadima voters’ trust and an act of self-delusion, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said this evening ahead of the meeting with Netanyahu. Speaking to the Kadima faction in the Knesset, Livni stressed the difficulties she perceived in the idea of her party joining a Likud-led coalition.”These days are a test for Kadima. People are looking at us. We presented our stance. We spoke during the campaign about content and ideology, about the difference between hope and despair and between ‘two states for two peoples’ and no path at all,” she said.

“We spoke about Israel as a Jewish democratic state. That’s why we asked for the trust for the public. We received a wave of support on the condition that we keep our promises. If we compromise and don’t lead our path by joining a government with a path that’s not ours, it would violate the trust of our voters,” added Livni.

Livni continued to pave her party’s way to the opposition. “When we talked about unity, we talked about unity of content. There are people among those Netanyahu calls his ‘natural partners’ whose content is problematic,” she emphasized. “Netanyahu helped prevent us from forming a government. This is our first test. We cannot delude ourselves or our voters. I am not looking for words to cheat myself. Words are not reversible. The decision is not easy. Even if we’re in the opposition we can support the government when it does the right thing and oppose it when it does the wrong thing.”

“Portfolios are not important,” Livni maintained.

Livni’s rival Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, however, said that Kadima should consider joining the government.

“We would have loved to form our own government,” Mofaz said. “There is no elation in opposition. Israel’s citizens wanted us to be in a position of influence, and we will not let the far-Right lead.

“The path is important to me,” continued Mofaz. “Talks [with Likud] should center on the platform, and we must insist on two things: continuing the diplomatic process and changing the method of government. It may be that the system cannot be changed from the inside. We have to examine that.”

Earlier, Netanyahu called on his prospective coalition partners not to resort to “arm-twisting and dictation of terms” in coalition talks and to seek unity, in light of the many challenges facing the country.

“The best way to deal with the challenges is with unity,” he said. “Unity can be achieved through dialogue, and not through arm-twisting and dictation of terms. An honest attempt is needed to reach common ground out of mutual respect and true dialogue.”

The prime minister-designate spoke ahead of a meeting with visiting Senator Joe Lieberman, who said a Netanyahu-led government would enjoy good relations with Washington.

“Our enemies, unfortunately, are as common as the values and the interests that have united us for all these years,” Lieberman told reporters. “I have no doubt that with Netanyahu’s government here we will have good and positive relations with the Obama administration in Washington and with members of Congress, and I look forward to playing my part in contributing to that.”

Lieberman also met with Yisroel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. The US senator said that “based on his success in the elections,” it was vital to become familiar with Israel Beiteinu’s head.

Tomorrow, Netanyahu is expected to meet Labor chairman Ehud Barak to discuss the possibility of retaining him as defense minister in the new government.

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said prior to Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that Kadima would not join a government that would call off peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We cannot be in a government that will not go for peace, because if we do so, Kadima could be deleted from the political map,” Sheetrit said.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, also of Kadima, said that his party would not sit in a government with Likud if there is no rotation of the premiership. “That is the only way to ensure a stable government that lasts four years,” Dichter told Israel Radio.

Meanwhile, MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) called on Kadima to put political and personal interests aside in favor of national requirements and hold negotiations with Likud to form a unity government. Speaking to Israel Radio, Shalom said he also hoped Labor would join the coalition.

{Yair Israel/JPost}