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Netanyahu Recruits Livni to Steer Palestinian Peace Efforts

Netanyahu Brings Livni Into Coalition to Steer Palestinian Talks
Tzipi Livni, of the Hatenuah party, attends the swearing-in ceremony of the 19th Knesset, the new Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem. Photographer: Uriel Sinai/AFP via Getty Images

Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister who condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to advance peace efforts, agreed to join his coalition and manage talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu and Livni announced the agreement at a press conference in Jerusalem late yesterday. Livni, whose Hatenuah party won six parliamentary seats in last month’s vote, said she and the premier agreed to put aside bitterness from the campaign and work together on the peace process. She was also named as justice minister.

“I criticized the government’s management over the past four years, but since the election, we’ve come to understandings to put all that aside,” Livni said.

The accord leaves Netanyahu, whose Likud-Beitenu list won 31 seats, needing another 24 for a majority in the 120-member Knesset. The prime minister has said he intends to have his new government in place before President Barack Obama visits in late March.

Livni turned down Netanyahu’s invitation to team up after the 2009 elections when she was head of the Kadima party. Even though Kadima won the most seats, Netanyahu outmaneuvered her to form a coalition, leaving Livni as opposition leader, a post she quit in frustration last year.

“Livni learned the hard way that she made a mistake last time and she can accomplish more by being inside the government,” Avraham Diskin, a political scientist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said today in a telephone interview.

Possible Ally

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which finished second in the vote and was named as a possible coalition ally by Netanyahu, has expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Other parties including Jewish Home, a member of Netanyahu’s outgoing coalition, and some members of the premier’s own Likud bloc are opposed to it.

Peace talks broke down in 2010 and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says he won’t resume them unless Israel stops adding to settlements in the West Bank. Livni, who led negotiations with the Palestinians under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has criticized new settlement plans announced by Netanyahu’s government.

“Tzipi, I’m glad you decided to act responsibly and join with me,” Netanyahu said at the press conference.

Their agreement also calls for Livni’s party to take charge of the Environmental Protection Ministry, which will probably go to former Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

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