Netanyahu offers olive branch to Palestinians as he appoints rival Tzipi Livni in charge of peace talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni during a joint press conference announcing their coalition deal, Jerusalem, Tuesday, February 19, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni during a joint press conference announcing their coalition deal, Jerusalem, Tuesday, February 19, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Israel is extending its hand once more for peace with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday at a press conference while announcing that former foreign minister Tzipi Livni had joined his coalition and will lead the Israeli peace negotiating team,” reports the Jerusalem Post.

“I  am hoping for a peace deal based on two states for two people, as per the parameters I outlined during my speech at Bar Ilan University,”  said Netanyahu during the press conference. “Today Israel extends its hand once more for peace. We want a peace process, and we hope that it will yield results.”

“We must set aside our disagreements and join forces for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “The State of  Israel now needs a large national unity government. Today we’re making  the first step towards this end.”

“Speaking after him, Livni echoed the prime minister’s sentiments, focusing largely on her role as a future peace negotiator,” noted the Post. “‘Two-and-a-half months ago we established Hatnua with the intention of fighting for a peace deal,’ she said. Though she also mentioned the issues of burden of service and commodity prices, Livni said ‘Iran, Syria, the Palestinians are not less pressing than these domestic issues.'”

The Times of Israel reported that “at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, amid stalled coalition discussions, Livni signed an agreement with Likud-Beytenu under which her party will join the coalition, where she will serve as justice minister. Livni will also head the Israeli government’s negotiation team with the Palestinians, an area in which she will be subordinate only to the prime minister….Livni has been harshly critical of Netanyahu’s policies over the years, particularly on the international diplomacy front. She led the opposition as Kadima head for much of Netanyahu’s previous term as prime minister and sought to establish a joint front with other center-left parties before the elections to thwart his reelection….Reports surfaced Tuesday indicating that Livni, whose Hatnua party won six seats in January’s elections, had accepted the proposal from Netanyahu.”

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