For Livni, forming an Israeli coalition just got a lot harder
The outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel may have to withdraw from the West Bank if it wants peace with Palestinians, making Tzipi Livni's job of building a new government coalition with hard-liners much more difficult.
Virtually on his way out the door from the prime minister's office, Ehud Olmert told Israelis what he really thinks of the future of the peace process.Skip to next paragraph
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In a sweeping interview with the mass circulation newspaper Yedioth Ahranot, Mr. Olmert said on the eve of the Jewish New Year last week that Israelis are dreaming if they think they can make peace with the Palestinians without paying the price: a withdrawal from most of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
Olmert's unusually conciliatory statements leave behind quite a complex playing field for Tzipi Livni, the current foreign minister and newly elected leader of the Kadima Party, as she tries to form a new government coalition.
Olmert and Ms. Livni were once both dyed-in-the wool Likud party rightists who left their roots to join the new "centrist" party that Ariel Sharon founded in 2005. But Livni in particular has been enigmatic about how far she is willing to go in terms of signing off on the land-for-peace formula that would lead to a two-state solution, one Israeli and one Palestinian.
"What Tzipi usually says is that things that are to be discussed in negotiations should not be discussed with the media," says a Livni adviser who asked not to be quoted. "She is not forthcoming on where she thinks compromise should be. But she has clearly been forthcoming with supporting the two-state solution."
To peace enthusiasts, this is good news for the future direction of the Kadima Party, which has supported a moderate if motionless platform since taking over in March 2006. To conservatives who don't see conditions conducive to a settlement of the conflict, Olmert's comments show a clear leftward tilt that puts him – and possibly Kadima – squarely in the camp of Israelis who are willing to make significant concessions to the Palestinians and the Syrians.
This means that while left or middle-of-the-road parties would like to join a government led by Livni, it will be harder for her to bring in parties such as Shas, which holds 10 percent of the seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
"We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories," Olmert told the Yediot Aharanot newspaper last week. "We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace."