The Hatnuah faction held a tense meeting Wednesday morning during which the party chairwoman, MK Tzipi Livni, presented the coalition agreement she and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed Tuesday night.
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The high level of tension, felt even before the meeting started, was evident when MK Amram Mitzna refused to shake the outstretched hand of MK Amir Peretz, who had come to wish him a happy birthday. Mitzna, upset and insulted by reports that Peretz would become Hatnuah’s second minister in the government despite Livni’s explicit promise to him, didn't say a word about the matter to the many journalists present.
Prior to the closed meeting of Hatnuah Knesset members, Livni made a statement to the press about the decision to join the government.
“All the conditions [to enter the coalition] were not only fully met, but even more," she said. "We received the management of the peace talks. The Justice Ministry will help us promote our world view and prevent the radicalism we saw in the previous Knesset. It’s not a matter of a portfolio or position, but rather about our ability to fulfill our philosophy.
"The test lies before us, also regarding equality in bearing the national-service burden," she continued. "The test is not ours only; it is mainly that of the prime minister, but also of the other parties in this building. We know there will be criticism. That is legitimate, but the test will be in the future.”
During the meeting, Livni told those present that contrary to reports in the media, she has not yet decided Hatnuah's second minister. She also told the MKs that she and Netanyahu had not yet agreed on which committee would be given to her faction or which Knesset member would be its chairperson.
Not all of Hatnuah’s MKs were pleased with Livni’s actions in signing the coalition agreement.
“Livni didn’t tell the Knesset members in advance that she had reached agreements with Netanyahu," a party official said, "and she told the media she had signed before the members knew about it.
“The way Amram Mitzna was treated won’t go by quietly, either," he added. "The fact that Amir Peretz behaves in this party as if it were his own, making Livni break an earlier agreement she had with Mitzna, is wrong. Mitzna should be the next minister from the party.” As soon as the meeting was over, Livni held a private meeting with Mitzna on the matter.
High-ranking party members close to Livni offered another perspective after the meeting.
“Tzipi doesn’t care about anything but the peace talks," one said. "From this perspective, she got what she wanted and even more. Nobody will hold her promises – not to be a fig leaf for a right-wing/Haredi government and not to enter a government without another centrist party – against her if she accomplishes significant things in the peace talks. If she doesn’t, she can always resign in two years and blame Netanyahu for the stalemate.”