Text size

Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the 2009 Israel elections

Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said he would not be bound by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's commitments to evacuate West Bank settlements and withdraw from the territories.

"I will not keep Olmert's commitments to withdraw and I won't evacuate settlements. Those understandings are invalid and unimportant," Netanyahu said.

Together with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Olmert arrived at these understandings in final status talks with the Palestinians, which included settlement evacuation, dividing Jerusalem and returning to 1967 borders.

After Netanyahu and senior Likud officials blasted Olmert and Livni's "promises" and accused Livni of agreeing to divide Jeruslem, she was forced to disassociate herself from the understandings.

"I will advance only an agreement that represents our interests. Maintaining maximum settlers and places that we hold dear such as Jerusalem - not a single refugee will enter," Livni said. "This morning's headline does not represent me or what I stand for," she told students at the Tel Aviv Academic College.

"Livni simply gave up Jerusalem," Netanyahu said.

He said he would invite Kadima and all the Zionist parties to join his coalition providing they agree to his guidelines - no division of Jerusalem, no return to 1967 borders.

Meanwhile Likud leaders decided to escalate their attacks on Livni, branding her as "weak on security" in billboards and bus posters. This is Livni's greatest weakness, Likud campaigners will say.

Kadima held a campaign meeting Thursday and discussed the problematic aspects of marketing Livni as a female military and security leader. They decided to enlist Shaul Mofaz and Avi Dichter, Kadima's militaristic figures, to hone the party's security messages and convey that Livni can, in fact, run the state's security affairs better than Netanyahu.

They will also try to enlist senior security figures from outside the political circle to speak about Livni's leadership qualities.

Livni herself addressed the gender issue Thursday when she told students that "no man or general has an advantage over me. When we sit in a room - the prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister, two men and a woman, the public thinks the two men made the decisions while she just sat there. Let me make it clear - I make decisions there, I don't make the coffee."

Kadima campaign sources said that focus groups also find it difficult to accept Livni as an authority on security despite admiring her leadership qualities. This difficulty seems to stem from the Gaza war, they said.