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Israel's Netanyahu brings longtime rival Livni into coalition

February 19, 2013|By Edmund Sanders
  • Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, shown in November 2011, will become justice minister under an agreement announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, shown in November 2011, will… (Sebastian Scheiner / Associated…)

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an agreement Tuesday night to bring his onetime political foe Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Movement Party, into his pending coalition government.

Livni, a former foreign minister who ran against Netanyahu in 2009 and served as opposition leader for much of the last four years, will become justice minister under the plan, both leaders announced during a joint appearance.

Her party will also lead the Environmental Protection Ministry. In return, Livni will deliver the six Knesset seats her party won in the Jan. 22 election to Netanyahu’s proposed coalition.

“This is the first step toward a broad-based government,” Netanyahu said, calling upon other political parties to follow suit and join his government.

Livni will become part of Netanyahu’s inner Cabinet and serve as head of a new ministerial committee to be created to lead Palestinian peace talks, if they are resumed.

Acknowledging her past conflicts with Netanyahu, Livni said, “Since the election we have had quiet and serious talks, and we understand this [rivalry] must be put aside.”

Leaders of other center-left parties quickly criticized Livni for joining forces with Netanyahu, whom she has frequently criticized for failing to make a serious effort to resolve the Palestinian conflict. Restarting peace negotiations was her party’s top priority.

Her support gives Netanyahu 37 of the 61 seats he needs to form a Knesset majority. His Likud Party won 20 seats and his election partner Yisrael Beiteinu, the party of former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, brings 11 seats.

Progress on luring two big election winners – centrist Yesh Atid, with 19 seats, and nationalist Jewish Home, with 12 seats – remains stalled. Those parties have formed an alliance and are demanding that Netanyahu first clarify the goals of his next government on such hot-button issues as restarting peace talks and drafting religious students into the army.

Party leaders say they want clear, written commitments from Netanyahu, rather than promises or new committees.

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