Not only will Tzipi Livni not get the foreign affairs portfolio in the next Likud-led government, she won’t be allowed anywhere near the diplomatic realm or be involved in talks with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud ministers on Wednesday.
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Several Likud ministers had asked Netanyahu to address media reports according to which he had made indirect contact with the Hatnuah leader, through emissaries, in order to assess her willingness to join his government in return for the foreign affairs portfolio.
Another rumor making the rounds in Wednesday was that while Livni wouldn’t get the Foreign Ministry, which would be reserved for Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman once he resolved all his legal issues, she would be appointed to lead talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu told several Likud ministers that neither prospect was on the horizon. He also vehemently denied sending any emissaries to Livni.
Livni, who was foreign minister in Ehud Olmert’s government (2006-2009), “conducted diplomatic negotiations that were terrible and flawed, and totally unacceptable to me,” Netanyahu reportedly said. “There’s no chance that I’d let her anywhere near that area, on the assumption that she would be a member of a government led by me.
“With regard to any future negotiations, I think totally differently from her, and my position regarding managing the negotiations bears no resemblance to her position. All these reports are baseless,” he said.
Netanyahu’s remarks totally contradict the opinion of Uzi Arad, who was formerly Netanyahu’s national security adviser. Two weeks ago, Arad said that after examining the documentation left by Livni and Olmert of their talks with with the Palestinians, it emerged that Livni, “stood up firmly and impressively for the State of Israel’s primary interests and national principles.”
Netanyahu’s position makes it much less likely that Livni and her fellow Hatnuah members will be coalition partners in the next government. Livni has refused to reject joining the government, but claimed she would only do so if she were allowed to advance those objectives she believes in and for which she returned to political life. This means advancing the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. If Netanyahu is intent on keeping her out of the negotiation room, there seems to be no reason for her to join a third Netanyahu government.
Most Likud-Beiteinu leaders assume that this increases the chances of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party being asked to join the government, since Netanyahu is very eager to have a party from the center bloc in his coalition.