Jerusalem, Feb. 28 – Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Friday turned down Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to pull her Kadima party into a government led by the latter’s Likud party.
Following their second tete-a-tete meeting since Netanyahu accepted on Feb. 20 the presidential mandate to form the next government, local daily Ha’aretz quoted Livni as saying that “the meeting ended without any agreements, and we cannot be in Netanyahu’s government.”
A unity government would have been “possible” should it support plans for a two-states-for-two-peoples solution and changes to the electoral system, another newspaper The Jerusalem Post quoted her as saying, while adding that Netanyahu was not committed to the subjects.
“We will be a responsible opposition,” added Livni, whose party remains as the biggest faction in the 120-seated parliament following the Feb. 10 general election.
Netanyahu said that “unity requires compromise and I was prepared to go in that direction,” but his offer to Kadima of a “full partnership” ran into a closed door.
“I also offered to give Kadima two of the top three ministries, I said peace talks would progress, and that we would act to introduce electoral reforms and to solve the conversion issue…”
“Unfortunately, she totally rejected unity, and refused even to set up dialogue team in order to strike a partnership,” said the former prime minister, adding that “I didn’t find that Livni had the willingness for unity.”
Earlier in the day, sources close to Netanyahu was quoted as saying that the latest meeting was Livni’s final test to prove that she was not a “conscientious objector to unity.” Netanyahu said recently that he would not be bullied into forming a unity government.
Following the general election, in which the Likud-led right-wing bloc secured a majority in the parliament, Netanyahu was tasked with setting up the new government within at most 42 days to replace the one led by outgoing Prime Minister and former Kadima chief Ehud Olmert.
In light of the daunting fragmentariness of Israel’s political system, Netanyahu has to cobble together a coalition before he returns to the prime minister’s office. Recent polls showed that the public favors a unity government.