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Israel's Livni faces rough road in push for peace
Published Wednesday 20/02/2013 (updated) 21/02/2013 16:34
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Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni.(MaanImages/file)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Tzipi Livni's coalition pact with right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu speaks volumes about the obstacles ahead for the moderate former Israeli foreign minister in her new task of pursuing peace.

Expectations of a new peacemaking initiative have been raised by a planned visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan next month by US President Barack Obama, who has clashed with Netanyahu over the prime minister's policy of expanding settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

But the coalition deal attested to wariness between Livni and Netanyahu and seemed couched to reassure hardliners in his Likud party that the prime minister, who is deeply mistrusted by most Palestinians, will ultimately call the shots.

Taking his first step in forming a new government after a Jan. 22 election, Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that Livni would serve as his justice minister and handle efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, frozen since 2010.

Palestinian reaction was reserved, with some officials saying they first wanted to see the final shape of the government Netanyahu is trying to put together.

The addition of the six parliamentary seats won by Livni's centrist Hatnuah party to the 31 captured by Netanyahu's Likud-Beitenu faction falls short of a majority in the 120-member Knesset, and he must still recruit other partners to govern.

And while her appointment as negotiator seemed to signal a new peace drive, it raised questions whether Livni would be just a fig leaf for Netanyahu, whose pursuit of settlement expansion in the West Bank has been a critical factor in the impasse.

"He will use her as a whitewash, as a PR (public relations) person overseas," Yossi Verter, a political commentator for the left-wing daily Haaretz, wrote on Wednesday.

"He'll send her often to the Americans and the Europeans, who like her, so she can explain how hard coalition life is, and how insubordinate the Palestinians are."

'Fig leaf'

Addressing such skepticism, Livni told Hatnuah legislators that her former party, the centrist Kadima, "would have been a fig leaf for an existing policy" had it followed other factions and joined the government Netanyahu formed four years ago.

But with current coalition efforts still in flux, she said, Hatnuah had come to the cabinet table first and its agreement with Netanyahu and commitment to peace would serve as guidelines for setting government policy.

In 2006-2009, Livni failed as then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's foreign minister and peace negotiator to clinch a peace deal even after he offered a withdrawal from much of the West Bank, which Israel captured in a 1967 war.

Now, key clauses in the coalition accord appeared tailored to rein in Israel's most prominent female politician.

She "will coordinate with the prime minister - who bears supreme responsibility and directs policy - the moves that she proposes and will regularly report all developments to him", the text of the pact read.

It also stipulated that Netanyahu, who has balked at again freezing settlement after a 10-month partial construction suspension three years ago, would keep a watchful eye on his new political partner.

"The prime minister will appoint a senior representative ... (who) will permanently accompany the negotiations and participate in every meeting, contact and discussion related to the peace process," the agreement said.

"There will be no parallel negotiations."

Obama visit

"I hope (Livni's appointment) is not a tactical move on part of Mr. Netanyahu in preparation for the visit of Mr Obama," said Abdallah Abdallah, a senior official of President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.

Outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has long called for concerted negotiations with the Palestinians, was widely viewed as playing a "fig leaf" role for Netanyahu.

The prime minister's testy relationship with Obama has been highlighted by differences over settlement policy and how to restrain Iran's disputed nuclear program.

The Palestinians have refused further negotiations with Israel without another halt to settlement-building, which is rapidly consuming territory they need for a viable state. Netanyahu has said he is open to talks without preconditions.

"Livni is experienced in peace negotiations, but what's more important ... is the political decision (she) will implement, and that depends on the policy of Mr. Netanyahu's government," Abdallah said.

Both Israel and the United States also have been playing down prospects for a breakthrough in efforts to create a Palestinian state, which Netanyahu says must be demilitarized and not pose a security threat to Israel.

Asked in an Israeli Army Radio interview Wednesday whether Netanyahu had made her any promises to curb settlement building in the West Bank, Livni said the issue of reviving peace talks was "complicated".

"After the government is formed, I will see what is needed to restart peace negotiations, what are the conditions and the positions of the United States, Europe and the Palestinians.

"Only after that will we know if there are any decisions the Israeli government needs to make," she said.
1 ) Dorgham / USA
20/02/2013 16:20
Correction on "Netanyahu has said he is open to talks without preconditions": These are not preconditions, they are obligations to which Israel has committed itself in previous accords, treaties, and agreements. The local media should know better how to articulate the Palestinian positions, instead of adopting stories written with word choices intended portray false perceptions about Palestine.

2 ) Mel / USA
20/02/2013 17:56
Riiiiiiight! Srew that!When it comes to these Zionist-Israeli sons/daughters of Jewish terrorists,their verbage is bullsh*t.All these'usual suspects'are just WORMS in the the sewage of Nazi-Zionism!There's only one place for ALL the Kadima,Likud,Beitenu,Shas Nazi,racist,bigotted criminals. PRISON,for life,for multiple WAR CRIMES,crimes against the(regional)peace,mass murder,geno-pedocide,perjury,treason!And that's not even including crimes against the State of Israel,under brutal Zionism!DOGS!

3 ) Two Different / "Rough Roads"
20/02/2013 18:00
1- LIVNI's "rough road" IS becoming IRRELEVANT to the government,
with so few members in Israel's government, and
2- Israel's government's "rough road" IS finding a Peace Partner willing to:
-a- talk without preconditions, much less
-b- compromise,
-c- accept the reality of legitimate Jewish claims to the same lands, and
-d- accept Israel's legitimate need for secure-defensible borders,
after the numerous joint Arab Invasions & Palestinian Terror Attacks !!!

4 ) Maureen / Australia
20/02/2013 22:41
What a sick joke! Livni has previosly shown her true face - that of a cruel and hardened Zionist supremicist!

5 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
20/02/2013 23:25
@ 1), Your 1- point is absolutely correct. Your 2-c- point is exactly why no real peace is possible between us and the Palestinians (west of the Jordan River) because our 2 peoples will never accept each other's claim to the same land, whether the land is divided between us or not. Separately ... Netanyahu's partnering with Livni is just the most blatant, recent example of the curse of our political system: the necessity of forming coalitions because we allow representation from so (cont.)

6 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
20/02/2013 23:40
many political parties. Democracy can be very good but unfortunately we carry it to such extreme we get bogged down in tumultuous situations like the present where it becomes a pathetic joke. Tzipi Livni doing the bidding of Netanyahu is like how Mahmoud Abbas (when he was the PA's Prime Minister) was allowed to do the bidding of Yasser Arafat. Translation: Again, it was a damn joke. (By the way, I meant to address my initial comments to 3), not 1) ... Sorry about that.)

7 ) Rami / Palestine
21/02/2013 11:12
God save us all when freakin' LIVNI of all people is the face of "peace."

8 ) gabi / australia
22/02/2013 01:13
Yehuda Solomon has given me a lot of laughs over time, but this is the biggest: "Democracy can be very good but unfortunately we carry it to such an extreme we get bogged down in tumultuous situations like the present where it become a pathetic joke." The real tumultuous situation is that while Israel claims to be a democracy the Palestinians over whom they have almost absolute control in the Occupied Territories get no vote. Says it all, really.

9 ) Mel / USA
23/02/2013 18:19
#8:gabi:Bravo! Yehuda,you continue to sound like a computer-chip doll,rolling off the Zionist factory-belt! Calling Israel a"democracy"is just delusory,considering Israel ITSELF amended its own'Basic Law'(1992)to erase the original passage that read,"..no discrimination"..."of gender,religion,nationality,race,ethnic group..",in PREFERENCE for an aparthied Bill of(Jewish)Rights only!Military Occupier,Zionist-led Israel,values true popular democracy as 'highly' as HITLER or STALIN,Yehuda-deluder!

10 ) Giacomo / USA
23/02/2013 23:55
What is the name of the Palestininan with a mandate from a unified Palestinian government and the Palestinain people, to negotiate and enforce a peace agreement with Israel? That's correct, there isn't one. Another diversionary 'analysis', with the associated vitriolic rhetoric, personal attacks, and inane name calling. Fix your wakseh if you can, unify, democratically elect a leader with a platform and a mandate, negotiate a sustainable peace agreement with the Isrealis, end the occupation.

11 ) Mel / USA
24/02/2013 18:52
#!0:Giacomo/USA:"...negotiate a sustainable peace agreement with the Israelis, end the occupation."?HOW does Palestine do that,when Israel has ALWAYS been stoic in BLOCKING"sustainable peace"&methodically avoiding true,equitable"negotiation"to"end theoccupation",as ALL those options would TAKE AWAY Israel's power,control,demographically,to complete its USG-sponsored brutal"conquest"of ALL Palestine,annexing JordanRiverValley,E1,Sinai,Golan/Litani River,etc,for RACIST ZIONISM,with BLOWBACK onUSA!

12 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
24/02/2013 21:19
These are my last posts. To start: @ 8), The Palestinians, ever since the PA was established and continuing with the State of Palestine, have their OWN elections for their OWN democratic governance. You're making a pathetic joke of yourself by attaching our Palestinian occupation in the cause of thwarting THEIR voting and democratic practices. Yes, our occupation does interfere with their full independent governance as a sovereign nation (that WE would recognize) but forget about (cont.)

13 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
24/02/2013 21:41
blaming US if we don't allow them to vote in OUR elections despite our occupation. The Palestinians (of the State of Palestine) are citizens of their OWN nation (according to 138 nations and the U.N.), NOT Israel. So they are never going to vote in our elections and we are never going to vote in THEIRS. @ 9), Gramps, your mouth is overflowing faster than Niagara Falls. In 1992, we amended/passed a Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty. Before that (in large part because we have no (cont.)

14 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
24/02/2013 22:05
formal, self-composed constitution--our "constitution" IS our 613 commandments/laws in our All_h-given Torah) we expressed freedom of religion in our 1948 Declaration of Independence and since came to express/recognize over time other individual freedoms without regard to gender, ethnicity, national origin, race, sex, etc. by way of various court decisions stemming from ALL of our so-called Basic Laws passed since 1948 (a collection of approx. a dozen or so with various modifications). (cont.)

15 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
24/02/2013 22:20
Understand THAT ??? ... @ 10), You make excellent points but (since I've always pledged to be honest) I must say that even if all your points were met by the Palestinians there cannot be a real peace between us and them (west of the Jordan River). It just cannot be; that is the truth. Our differences are truly irreconciliable despite our government's pronouncements or intentions. Are we to blame ??? ... Answer: YES, WE ARE. So, Mel (in #11)--as much as I hate coming to his (cont.)

16 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
24/02/2013 22:35
defense--does have valid points. So while in that post (#11) he may "contort" his views with (but in his fervent belief I know and can understand why he believes those beliefs are genuine, as do others who agree with him) with racism, brutality and backfiring blowback (towards America or elsewhere), he does speak (in that post) with a large measure of truth about the ultimate goal of Zionist ideology regarding the land of Israel (which, to me/other Israelites, is all west of the Jordan River).

17 ) Outlier / USA
28/02/2013 02:40
Respect given, respect gained. Livni may be the Palestinians' most flexible negotiating partner and should receive respect on that basis alone.
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