When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Israel in early April, he waxed optimistic about getting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track. But even as Israeli leaders smiled in public alongside him, a stubborn reality went unacknowledged: Of the main parties in the new government, only one actually championed restarting the peace process and achieving Washington’s goal of a two-state solution as an urgent national priority.
That Hatnua, also known as the Tzipi Livni Party, is in the coalition government at all is a matter of legitimate puzzlement. In 2009, its leader, Tzipi Livni, who then led the much larger Kadima party, stubbornly refused the entreaties of Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu to join his ruling coalition. Her reason for staying out then was precisely the lack of commitment she saw in Netanyahu and his party to the goal of achieving a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Now, after a stint as opposition leader during which she failed to make an imprint and was subsequently ousted as leader of Kadima, Livni is the junior partner in Netanyahu’s government. She now heads a much smaller party with just six Knesset seats. Yet Livni said her turnaround was necessary to save the two-state solution.
“The other choice was to look from the outside and give to others to make decisions that I believe don’t represent the interests of the State of Israel,” she told the Forward. “My campaign and the reason for me to come back to politics was to fight for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Asked what changed between February 2009 and today to make serving under Netanyahu palatable, she pointed to Netanyahu’s July 2009 speech in which he cautiously accepted, despite the misgivings of many in his party, the two-state solution.
“In 2009 Netanyahu proposed that we join the government after he founded a coalition base of what he called the natural partners, Shas and Yisrael Beytenu. He refused to commit to the principle of two states. Today, I joined the government after Netanyahu expressed acceptance of the two-state solution.”