Israeli Politics Roundup: Likud Primaries and Livni’s New Party
After months of speculation, former Israeli Foreign Minister and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni on Tuesday announced her candidacy in Israel’s Jan. 22 general elections, unveiling her new party Hatnuah (“The Movement”).
According to media reports, Livni delayed launching her new party until after hostilities with Hamas in Gaza had ceased.
“It was difficult for me to return to politics,” Livni told a packed roomful of reporters at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “I came to fight for our shared vision; to fight for peace. I will not lend a hand to those who are trying to turn the word ‘peace’ into a bad word. I came to fight for Jewish Israel, for democratic Israel. I came to fight against social gaps.”
Livni said she “didn’t return to politics to be in this or that party.”
“My return was motivated by a void that has emerged,” she said. “When I thought that [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert may run, I was relieved, because I thought he would pose a viable alternative to the prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu). Ultimately, I stepped in because the political arena remained empty.”
Livni initially entered politics just over a decade ago, following a stint in the Mossad intelligence service—as a legal adviser, some say, while others speculate that she helped hunt Arab enemies abroad—and then a career as a corporate attorney.
Dubbed “Mrs. Clean” by one Israeli newspaper columnist, a reference to her unmarred integrity while her colleagues were plagued with criminal investigations, the usually dour former foreign minister is widely seen as the antithesis of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a glad-handing veteran politician embroiled in a corruption scandal that forced him from office.
Reactions quickly followed Livni’s press conference. Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, who had asked Livni to join the party but was rejected, issued a statement saying: “Tzipi Livni, who is a worthy woman and politician, is making a terrible mistake. She is establishing a party of double refugees and giving Netanyahu and [Avigdor] Lieberman a reason to smile. Instead of focusing on their [Likud-Beytenu] ultra-extreme Knesset list, now we’re focusing on the fact that there is another little party in the Center. Anyone who believes that Israel should have a fair economy and just society, protect democracy and the rule of law and be able to promote a diplomatic [peace] process should unite behind the leadership of Shelly Yachimovich, who is leading the Center bloc with confidence and stability. Next week, the Labor Party will present an economic-social plan that, when implemented, will give Israeli citizens better, more decent lives.”
The other main Center-Left party, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”), also issued a statement, saying, “The maneuver that Tzipi Livni instigated this morning is an embodiment of the old politics, the quintessential monster, motivated solely by her ego. It is unfortunate that Livni refused to be a partner in making a real change in the lives of Israel’s citizens.” Lapid had also asked Livni to join his party, and had been refused.
Meanwhile, the results of the Likud primaries, which ended on Monday after two days of voting due to glitches in the computerized voting system, indicated that the party’s list for the next Knesset includes Members of Knesset considered as belonging to right-wing side of the party.
The big drama of the primaries was considered to be ministers Dan Meridor, Ze’ev Binyamin (Benny) Begin, Avi Dichter and Michael Eitan failing to garner enough votes to win spots on the list that would guarantee them seats in the next Knesset.
MKs Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, Tzipi Hotovely all made it to the top 10 spots on the list. Moshe Feiglin, who heads the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction in the Likud and is considered on the far right of the party, captured the 14th spot on the list and will enter the Knesset for the first time in his political career.
The party’s first 20 candidates for the Knesset are Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan, Silvan Shalom, Yisrael Katz, Danny Danon, Reuven Rivlin, Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, Zeev Elkin, Yariv Levin, Tzipi Hotovely, Yuli Edelstein, Haim Katz, Miri Regev, Moshe Feiglin, Yuval Steinitz, Tzachi Hanegbi, Limot Livnat, Ofir Akunis, Gila Gamliel and Carmel Shama Hacohen.
“When you compare our list with that of any other party, you will see that we have more public servants with proven experience,” said Erdan, who is currently Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection.