Likud Moves to Right, Livni Presents Centrist Alternative

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

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

Wrong Palestinian partner

Seen as Israel’s leading advocate for a two-state solution, Livni criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to enter a ceasefire 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 told reporters in Tel Aviv, referring to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ more moderate Fatah government in the West Bank.

Right-wing division

The truce with Hamas is deeply unpopular in Israel. Polls suggest that Netanyahu’s conservatives, who have joined forces with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, will take 37 of the 120 seats in parliament next year, down from 42.

The balance would go to smaller right-wing and Orthodox parties that have traditionally allied with Netanyahu.

Left behind

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. It might not win any seats at all.

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, as opinion polls suggest, the left won’t come close to claiming a majority, reflecting the country’s rightward tilt in recent years.