Livni Tells Meretz: I Won't Dismiss Justice Minister Friedmann

Kadima leader told left-wing party members 'you cannot tell me who to appoint'.

Prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni on Wednesday rejected demands from the left to remove Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann. She said she would discuss the issue as part of talks to form a new coalition government after her victory in the Kadima primary two weeks ago.

"You cannot tell me who to appoint," Livni told representatives of left-wing party Meretz. The Kadima leader added that she did not agree with all of Friedmann's reforms and that she would be open to discuss his reforms on an individual basis.

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On told Livni that "Friedmannism cannot exist without Friedmann [in office]" and that as long as he was justice minister, he would find ways to push his reforms forward.

Meretz has made the removal of Friedmann one of its key demands in entering a new coalition government under Livni while Labor insists that his reforms be put on hold. Kadima officials have said that if Livni agreed to remove Friedmann she would risk angering Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who would consider it a personal affront.

Livni spoke to Gal-On and Meretz leader Haim Oron for over an hour and seemed interested in having the party join the coalition. However, Livni is reluctant to give in to Meretz's demand to change the government's annual budget and allocate more funds to social issues.

Members of Livni's negotiating team will meet with Shas representatives Thursday and discuss ways to meet the ultra-Orthodox party's demands to increase child allowances. Sources close to the situation say Livni is focusing on reaching a deal with Labor because she believes negotiations with Shas will then be much easier.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be pressuring Shas not to join a coalition government under Livni.

Also this week, Foreign Minister Livni met with her opponent in the primary race, Transportation Minister Shual Mofaz, for the first time since her victory.

Mofaz, who had announced he would take a "time-out" from political life after his defeat in the primary, has changed his mind after a series of meetings with his supporters.

Livni's aides said that the two did not discuss what position Mofaz would be offered in a coalition government. The two Kadima leaders met on Monday on the eve of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Shortly after his defeat in the election, Mofaz had rejected a proposal to become deputy prime minister and foreign minister in a Livni government. Livni's aides said they expected he would be made the same offer.

Meanwhile, Livni and her husband yesterday met for dinner with Labor Party chief and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his wife. The meeting was said to be aimed at building trust between the two leaders.

But Labor Party sources say that talks with Kadima over forming a government are stuck. One point of contention has been the Friedmann issue.