Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, has been named as justice minister after joining an emerging coalition headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of the ruling Likud Party.
Livni, who heads the centrist HaTnuah Party, will also be Israel’s negotiator in any peace talks with the Palestinians, the prime minister’s bloc said on Tuesday.
HaTnuah, which campaigned for the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians, is the first to join Netanyahu’s new coalition.
“The prime minister and justice minister will upon the formation of the new government act to renew the diplomatic process,” the statement said.
The agreement between Netanyahu and Livni’s parties also states that a member of HaTnuah will receive the environment portfolio.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Jerusalem, called Livni’s decision to join Netanyahu “a fairly easy alliance.”
“For her, the main issue has really been Palestinian getting talks happening again,” Johnston said, adding that Livni has been “very critical” on Netanyahu’s failure to advance the peace process with Palestine.
If Israel and the Palestinians reach a deal, it would be brought before the government and parliament for a vote, “and if necessary – a referendum,” the agreement stated.
Peace talks have been stalled since September 2010, with Palestinians demanding Israel stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem before a resumption of negotiations, and Israel rejecting any preconditions to talks.
Rekindling the peace process will also be on the agenda on the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama, who announced he would be reaching the region in the spring, with Israeli media putting the date at March 20.
Netanyahu, whose rightwing Likud-Beitenu list won a narrow victory with 31 of the Knesset’s 120 seats in last month’s election, has been struggling to piece together a government facing key diplomatic and foreign policy issues.
He has repeatedly declared his desire for the “broadest possible national unity government” to lead the country through “a decisive period” of its history, listing moves to restart negotiations with the Palestinians as one of his top priorities.