Tzipi Livni, who hopes to be appointed Israel's prime minister-designate, said Monday Israel must give up considerable territory in exchange for peace with the Palestinians, drawing a clear distinction with her rival, Benjamin Netanyahu.
She told a convention of American Jewish leaders, "we need to give up half of the Land of Israel," using a term that refers to biblical borders that include today's Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, repeating her well-known view that pulling out of Palestinian areas would be for the good of Israel, to maintain it as a Jewish state.
Livni told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations that Israel must take the initiative and come forward with its own peace plan to head off international programs. "Any plan put on the table will not be in our interest," she said.
Livni's centrist Kadima Party won one more seat than the hawkish Likud, led by Netanyahu. He opposes large-scale territorial concessions in peace talks with the Palestinians. He believes negotiations should concentrate instead on building up the Palestinian economy
'They should govern themselves'
Netanyahu and Livni, the current foreign minister, both claimed victory in last week's election. Each hopes to be picked by President Shimon Peres to form the next government.
Netanyahu appears to have the edge, because a majority of members in the new parliament favor his views.
Official results of Israel's election are scheduled to be published Wednesday, and then Peres will begin formal consultations with the 12 parties in the new parliament. He is expected to choose a premier-designate within a few days, starting a period of up to six weeks for coalition negotiations.
In his address before the gathering, Netanyahu ruled out unilateral pullbacks from territory, criticizing Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, charging that it allowed the Islamic militant Hamas to take over there.
He said he, too, does not want to govern Palestinians, but Israel must maintain control of all borders, airspace and electronic traffic, indicating that his offer to the Palestinians would be considerably less than a sovereign state.
"Regardless how the solution is achieved, the Palestinians should run their lives," he said. "They should govern themselves, but they shouldn't have certain powers that would threaten the state of Israel."