Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has announced a coalition deal with former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in his first move in forming a new government. Livni will also lead renewed diplomacy talks with Palestinians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke alongside Tzipi Livni Tuesday night, saying his union with the former foreign minister and her HaTnuah party was intended to provide his emerging government with a "wide and stable government that unites the people."
The centrist HaTnuah party, founded and led by Livni, is the first to join Netanyahu's new coalition after the election on January 22. The party campaigned to renew the peace talks with Palestinians that have been deadlocked since 2010.
Netanyahu's Likud party and its Beitenu alliance partner announced on Tuesday that Livni would serve as justice minister and "negotiator with the Palestinians to reach an agreement that would end the conflict."
"In addition to our commitment to security, we must make any effort possible to promote a responsible peace process with the Palestinians," Netanyahu said in televised remarks. To do that, he said, "we must unify forces.”
"This is exactly what Tzipi Livni and I are doing today," he said. "We both know we need to put aside our differences, get over old rivalries and join forces for our country," Netanyahu said.
A longtime rival to Netanyahu, Livni said she decided to join the prime minister's next government "because of a strategic and moral imperative to leave no stone unturned, to exhaust any possibility and become a part of any government that commits to bringing peace.”
Netanyahu said they would act together "to promote a process with the Palestinians aimed at reaching peace between two state-nations.”
"Today Israel is reaching out its hand in peace another time," he said. "We want to negotiate. I will insist that any process will safeguard Israel's security and national interests."
He also said he wanted to face down “tremendous challenges” from a nuclear Iran as well as conflict with Syria and Hezbollah.
A government takes shape
Livni, 54, served as foreign minister from 2006-2009 with the centrist Kadima party and led inconclusive talks with the Palestinians. After quitting Kadima following a lost leadership contest, she formed the centrist HaTnuah party.
On Tuesday, Livni noted that "the diplomatic process is at the center of our lives," adding that this reality is what is bringing US President Barack Obama to Israel next month.
Netanyahu has one more month to secure enough coalition partners to control at least half of the Knesset's 120 seats so that he can govern.
Likud, running on a joint ticket with the right-wing Beitenu party, won 31 seats in January's election, with Livni's HaTnuah party winning six.
hc/jm (AP, AFP)