VIDEO - After being the first to sign a coalition agreement which will make her part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni convened her faction Wednesday to explain the move criticized by many in the political arena.
"Today we're smiling but everything is still ahead of us," Livni told reporters at the start of the meeting.
"We created a new hope," Livni said, "and we have received congratulations from all over the world. That's very important."
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Livni spoke of Netanyahu's attempts to get her to join his previous coalition four years ago, when she was the chairwoman of Kadima and had 28 Knesset seats.
At the time, she said, he tried to do so "so that we would be a fig leaf for a policy he dictated. Today it's a completely different picture. It was the prime minister's choice to start with us, and the question what the government will look like remains open."
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
According to the coalition agreement, published Tuesday, Livni will serve as justice minister and head peace talks with the Palestinians. Netanyahu will supervise over the negotiations, and any draft agreement will require the government's approval.
Another faction member, most likely Amir Peretz, will be appointed environmental protection minister.
Livni and Mitzna (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Hatnua faction meeting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Wednesday's meeting was opened by MK Meir Sheetrit, who explained that the justice portfolio will allow the faction to "strengthen our ability to advance laws. We have an opportunity to further legislation on all the issues we have addressed, like an equal share of the burden."
The tension between the faction members was apparent before the beginning of the short press conference. MK Peretz, approached Hatnua's No. 2, MK Amram Mitzna, who has a promise from Livni that he will be the faction's second minister, and tried to shake his hand and congratulate him on his birthday.
Mitzna refused to shake Peretz's hand and said, "Yeah, these things happen too."
The agreement between Livni and Netanyahu was reached without the knowledge of Hatnua faction members. Haim Ramon, Livni's political ally, was not informed of the deal either.
"The commitment to (peace) negotiations led to a partnership," Livni told reporters during a joint press conference with Netanyahu on Tuesday evening. "Two and a half months ago my colleagues and I formed Hatnua, and we vowed to fight for a diplomatic agreement, even if it doesn't pay off politically. This led to a partnership with the prime minister after I was (given the necessary authority) to negotiate with the aim of ending the conflict with the Palestinians.
"The diplomatic issue is at the center of our lives. This is what is bringing the president of the United States (to the region)," she said. "Hamas controls Gaza and wants to take over the West Bank. This could lead to the loss of the State of Israel's Jewish identity."