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Friday, February 27, 2009

Livni says no

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has refused finally Binyamin Netanyahu's entreaty to join a Likud-led government after a two-hour meeting between the two today.
"Two states (one for the Israelis and one of the Palestinians) is not an empty slogan," Livni said as she left the meeting. "Unity is not just sitting in a government together. It also means sharing a way."

"I came to meet with the Likud chairman for a second time in order to hear about his vision and the way he wishes to implement. Israel is facing challenges. I told him Kadima would support any right moves by the government.

"In order to deal with the challenges I wanted three fundamental things which you are aware of," she said. "Two states is not an empty slogan. It's the only way Israel can remain Jewish and fight terror. It's a matter of principle.

"We discussed the issues. I didn't see any commitment on Bibi's part to these issues. The meeting ended without any understandings, and we cannot be part of Netanyahu's government," Livni stated, vowing to act as "a responsible opposition".
Israel Radio reports that Netanyahu offered Livni the opportunity to draft the new government's guiding principles together, an equal number of portfolios (ministries), and the 'quality' portfolios, including the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry. Netanyahu said that he had negotiated with the 'Palestinians' for 'peace' in the past and would continue to do so in the future. He sent Silvan Shalom (who would likely be foreign minister in a narrow government) and Gidon Sa'ar (who would be a candidate for justice minister in a narrow government - Yisrael Beteinu's desire for the current Justice Minister to remain in his position) to the media to express their desire for a 'national unity' government. According to Israel Radio, Netanyahu will - and has every right to - blame the failure of the 'national unity' negotiations (which most Israelis wanted to succeed) on Tzipi Livni.

On Sunday, Netanyahu will meet with Labor's Ehud Barak, who is the current Defense Minister and who is preferred by 55% of the country to stay in that position, but the results are likely to be the same. Israel Radio (which is generally not sympathetic to politicians on the Right) says that although Netanyahu sincerely wanted a 'national unity' government, he has put himself in a position where Livni and Barak are entirely to blame for that not happening.

In the meantime, as I noted earlier today, it is not a foregone conclusion that Netanyahu will be able to put together a narrow government. And all the polls indicate that new elections would bring similar results (90% of Israelis surveyed said that they would not consider changing their votes). Aside from the issue I discussed this morning, there are other problems with a narrow coalition:
[I]n the ultra-Orthodox camp, Shas and United Torah Judaism tried to form a "Haredi bloc," but with the start of coalition talks this week the two parties began battling each other. In talks with Likud negotiators this week, both parties demanded the housing portfolio, which the ultra-Orthodox parties seek due to their constituency's housing shortage.

Both parties' rabbinical leaderships ordered their lawmakers this week to put housing at the top of the agenda and demand cabinet decisions on perks for homebuyers and the establishment of an ultra-Orthodox city. Shas has demanded and expanded housing portfolio that would include the Israel Lands Authority.

UTJ chairman Yaakov Litzman told Haaretz after meeting Likud representatives that "there are serious problems" in the coalition talks. He mentioned competition from Shas for the Housing Ministry.

Likud negotiator Gideon Sa'ar Thursday told Habayit Hayehudi representatives that "the choke hold created by the outgoing government on the Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria must be released and construction there thawed."

Habayit Hayehudi has also demanded that Israel not withdraw from the Golan Heights in any peace agreement and that no Palestinian state be established. The party also seeks increased Judaism studies in public schools and a promise that no changes be made to the state-religion status quo without the agreement of all coalition partners. The party demanded the education portfolio and a deputy minister in either the interior, social affairs or finance ministries.

Likud representatives also met with members of National Union; its chairman Ya'akov Katz said there was a positive atmosphere in the meeting. He said that in just a few weeks there will be a government that is "more Israeli, more Jewish, more Zionist and different in its directives than the present government."

National Union wants illegal West Bank outposts declared legal and permission for construction in the territories. The party is also opposed to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights or a Palestinian state.
And that's without even considering all the issues with Yisrael Beiteinu.... Netanyahu probably needs to be reminded again why he wanted this job in the first place.


JPost has more on what Netanyahu offered Livni.
Despite Livni's claim that the new government's platform would not be to her party's liking, Netanyahu insisted that he had offered her "full partnership" in setting its guidelines.

"I also offered to give Kadima two of the top three ministries [undoubtedly the foreign ministry for herself and the defense ministry for Shaul Mofaz. CiJ], I said peace talks would progress, and that we would act to introduce electoral reforms and to solve the conversion issue," he continued.

"If there's a will, there's a way; and if there is a will there is unity," he continued. "Unfortunately, she totally rejected unity, and refused even to set up dialogue team in order to strike a partnership."

Netanyahu had made efforts over the last few days to reach out to Livni and persuade her that his government would pursue peace with the Palestinians and that there was no ideological basis for not joining the coalition.


An MK who met with Livni this week said she had already made it clear that there was no chance Kadima would join Netanyahu's government.

President Shimon Peres has met with Kadima MKs over the last few days in an effort to push the formation of national unity government. Many Kadima MKs have said in closed conversations that they believed the party should join Netanyahu's government, but the only MKs who have said so publicly are Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz [who would be defense minister in a unity government. CiJ] and his ally, Ronit Tirosh [who would probably be education minister - she's a former director general of the education ministry. CiJ].

Sources close to Mofaz had left open the possibility that if Livni formally closed the door on a unity government Friday, some of the MKs who agreed with him would vocalize their discontent. But they expressed doubt that the MKs would risk angering Livni, who could decide who receives portfolios in a future government.

Kadima MK Marina Solodkin said she had a difficult time explaining to Russian immigrant activists in the party why the party would remain in the opposition.

"I tell them that it's only temporary and that when the challenges Israel is facing intensify, the government will fall," Solodkin said. "I also tell them that as Marxism teaches, things often happen against the will of humanity."
By the way, Kadima claims to have a poll that says that 70% of its voters want it in opposition as opposed to the Shvakim Panorama poll that was on Israel Radio on Thursday that claimed that 85% of Kadima voters wanted the party in a national unity government under Netanyahu. A little confusion there....


At 4:33 PM, Blogger Kae Gregory said...

I aplaud Livni on her courageous stand and I would like to say that I agree with her on the idea of two states - kinda. I believe that there should be two states. One in within the borders of the current state and the disputed territories - Israel - as a Jewish state. And the other - Palestine - somewhere else.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This is the first time I heard Kadima declaring it has principles.

Let's see how it lives up to them in the opposition.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger 1Trader said...

It's very discouraging to see Bibi pleading with Livni. The voters want to be rid of the Olmert circus, but Bibi wants to "reach across the aisle" like McCain.

Israel needs a PM like Begin to resist the coming attacks from the Obama regime, one can only hope that Bibi's heart can become hardened.

At 8:39 PM, Blogger 1Trader said...

NormanF, what a silly comment, of course Kadima has principles, you can read them in the PLO charter and the minutes of the Durban conference.

At 8:02 AM, Blogger the_raptor said...

Any chance that Bibi can peel Shaul Mofaz away from Kadima?

At 3:57 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

the raptor: the most likeliest outcome would be if Livni falters in the opposition and is replaced by Mofaz, I do see Kadima then joining a Likud-led government. That won't happen though for awhile.

At 7:21 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

UPDATE: In a bid to upstage Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak's shrunken Labor Party may yet join a national unity government. If Barak can get support within Labor for it, odds are good he'll remain in the Defense Ministry.

And if that happens, Shaul Mofaz could bolt Kadima sooner, leaving Tzipi Livni twisting slowly in the political wind.


Barak And Mofaz Not Closing Door On Joining Unity Government

Read it all.


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