Former Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni Re-Joins Israeli Politics, Hands Netanyahu The Election

 @MayaErgas on November 27 2012 1:52 PM
Livni
Former opposition leader of Israel's Kadima Party Tzipi Livni resigned from the Knesset in May 2012, and on Tuesday announced she is forming a new party to run in the January 2013 elections. REUTERS

Former Israeli Foreign Minister and opposition party leader Tzipi Livni announced Tuesday that she will be returning to politics after resigning from the Knesset in May, as the leader of a new secular Zionist party HaTnua, or The Movement. 

A poll by the Artuz Shtaim TV network predicted that this hypothetical new party could gain 10 Knesset seats (out of 120) in the January elections.

Livni announced the party just two days after the head of the center-left Labor Party tried to entice her to join them in a bid to topple current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party, Times of Israel reported

"Do not split the center," Labor leader Shelley Yachimovich wrote in a message on her Facebook page. "Join us, the largest party in the bloc, and together we’ll put an end to Netanyahu’s power,”

"I call on Tzipi Livni to join me and the Labor Party and avoid forming a new party that will take votes from the centrist parties which already exist,” Yachimovich told Israel National News.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also tried to entice Livni to run with him in a Knesset bid, but it is now unclear whether he will return to politics. Olmert is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday or Thursday, Times of Israel said. Olmert and Livni are both former leaders of the centrist Kadima party.

Now, neither of those coalitions will exist, and Livni's new center-left party could potentially split the left vote even more, since there is no solid center-left bloc to oppose the new right-wing alliance between Netanyahu's Likud and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteynu. 

Netanyahu was favored to keep his job anyway, and despite Livni's popularity, that seems even more likely now. On Tuesday, Brent Sasley, a professor of Israeli politics at the University of Texas at Arlington, wrote in the Daily Beast that Livni's choice not to join Labor will only help Netanyahu by splitting the center and center-left votes, after the Likud primaries pulled the party even more sharply to the right.

Why wouldn't Livni join Labor? Ego, it seems. As Sasley pointed out, centrist parties don't last long in the Knesset, but by returning in this manner, Livni may be angling herself for a seat on Netanyahu's Cabinet.

In an op-ed on YNet News on Monday, Israeli journalist Emanuel Rosen advised Livni and Yachimovich that they can't beat Netanyahu alone.

"If they say the country must not be left in his hands for four more years – they must not go to these elections alone," he wrote. 

"The question [of] why won’t they join forces … has a host of significant answers, but only one is true: the unwillingness and inability to give up the honor of taking the wheel … even if it is clear and known that the wheel does not lead either of them to the desired office."

Even Likud doesn't seem eager to take her back. In a statement to the Jerusalem Post, a Likud spokesman called Livni "nationally irresponsible and politically incomprehensible," and accused her of "projecting weakness to Israel's enemies."

"Tzipi Livni supported the disengagement [of Israel from Gaza] and brought Hamas to Gaza," he said. "Now she is working vigorously to bring Hamas to Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]."

Israel's elections are scheduled for Jan. 22, 2013.

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