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"If Netanyahu becomes prime minister, we will lose our ability to recruit the United States against Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas," Kadima head and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Haaretz in an exclusive interview. If Likud wins the election, "our ability to put together an international coalition against those threats will be affected immediately."

In the interview, to be published in tomorrow's Haaretz Magazine, Livni said, "Netanyahu and Barak each have a character problem that was revealed during their tenures as prime minister." She said that both men "completed their terms of office as excoriated prime ministers." Livni said she has no doubt that she "can be a better prime minister than any other candidate." To Likud's claim that the job of prime minister is too big for her, she responded, "It's not too big for me and not too small for me. It's my size."

Livni did not rule out including Avigdor Lieberman in the government she hopes to form, as long as he accepts its guidelines. She said she believes she could work together with Lieberman, chairman of the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, on certain domestic issues and on changing the system of government. Despite her position in recent popularity polls, which show her lagging behind Netanyahu, Livni expressed full confidence that she will be victorious in the February 10 election.

Livni sees Operation Cast Lead as a success. "In the present operation I stood behind the decisions that were made: launching the operation, the ground move, refusing a humanitarian cease-fire, refusing agreements with Hamas, avoidance of becoming mired. I am the one who said from the beginning what happened at the end: No to a settlement with Hamas, no to a tahadiyeh [lull], to go on fighting, to restore deterrence." She rejected criticism of the operation by the left, saying, "To batter terrorism is not to batter peace but to support peace." She added that, "the terrorists are murderers. They are out to kill children. In contrast, we are out to kill terrorists."