Likud Moves to Right, Livni Presents Centrist Alternative

The popular former foreign minister probably won’t stop Netanyahu from winning reelection.

Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, September 2, 2009
Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, September 2, 2009 (Flickr/Tzipi Livni/Itzik Edri)

Israel’s ruling Likud party on Monday presented its most right-wing list of candidates in recent history for January’s election, possibly providing an opening for former foreign minister Tzipi Livni who announced the formation of a new centrist party on Tuesday.

Seen as Israel’s leading advocate for a two-state solution, Livni fiercely criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to enter a ceasefire agreement with the militant organization Hamas in Gaza after a week of hostilities. “The government enters dialogue with those who support terror and avoids the camp that has prevented terror, that fights for two states,” she said during a press conference in Tel Aviv, referring to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ more moderate Fatah government in the West Bank.

The truce with Hamas that was reached with American and Egyptian mediation is deeply unpopular in Israel. Recent opinion polls suggest that Netanyahu’s conservatives, who have joined forces with incumbent foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, will take up to 37 of the 120 seats in parliament next year, down from the 42 they now occupy. The remaining seats go to smaller right-wing and orthodox parties that are part of Netanyahu’s coalition, however, which should enable the premier to win reelection.

Labor looks set to recover from its dismal performance in the last election, winning up to 24 seats in preelection surveys compared to the eight it currently has. The liberal Kadima, which emerged as the largest opposition party under Livni’s leadership from the 2009 election, will likely be shattered by contrast. It might not even make the election threshold.

Livni resigned from the Knesset in May after she lost a primary election for the party leadership against former defense minister Shaul Mofaz. Even if her new party wins between the eight and ten seats which opinion polls suggest it could, the left in Israel wouldn’t come close to claiming a majority in the new parliament, reflecting the country’s rightward tilt of recent years.

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