Tzipi Livni - Emil Salman - 1.5.2012
Tzipi Livni announcing her resignation from the Knesset, May 1, 2012. Photo by Emil Salman
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Logo of Tzipi Livni's new party
Logo of Tzipi Livni's new party

Former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni announced her return to politics on Tuesday, adding that she would stand at the helm of a new party, currently called Hatnuah ("The Movement").

"I have come to fight for peace, and I will not give my hand to those who try to turn the word peace into a dirty one," Livni said at the Tel Aviv press conference, adding that she "decided not to give up. There has to be an alternative in Israel's elections."

Asked on why it took her as long as she did before announcing her return, the former Kadima head said that "this wasn't, personally speaking, an easy decision to make," adding, "But a woman's got to do what a man's got to do."

The former foreign minister criticized the policies of Netanyahu's government, saying that the "same government that refused to say the words 'two states' is accepting two Palestinian states – one in the UN, against our wishes, and a Hamas state in Gaza."

In response to Livni's announcement, the Labor Party released a statement, saying that the former Kadima head, "a worthy woman in the political sphere, is making a bad mistake."

The statement criticized Livni for forming a party made up of the "refugees" of other factions, "causing [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to break out a big smile."

Kadima also responded to Livni's announcement: "Kadima wishes Tzipi Livni success in her new endeavor, but wonders what she will manage to achieve with only a few (Knesset) seats that she didn't manage to achieve with the 28 seats (Kadima had) over four years. This is not a politically wise move. Instead of uniting the center-left bloc, Livni decided to split it."

Yair Lapid's new Yesh Atid party also responded to the news with a statement: "The move led this morning by Tzipi Livni is the old and divisive politics personified, comes from calculations based on ego alone. It is saddening that Livni refused to be a partner in leading real change in the lives of Israeli citizens."

Meretz chairman Zehava Gal-On also piped in, saying that "Livni is a worthy woman with many good intentions," but that her return to politics would weaken her opponents in the center bloc – Labor and Yesh Atid.

"In the last elections Livni wore the costume of the left but failed as weak opposition. Even her diplomatic message is confusing and vague after she supported Israel's Gaza offensive. Nevertheless, the mass bombing of the Palestinians is not the best way to make peace," Gal-On said. 

Livni's announcement is expected to rattle Kadima, with several MKs expected to break away from the party as soon as this week in order to transfer their portion of Kadima's election funds to the new faction.

If Livni wants to officially split Kadima, she must enlist at least seven current MKs to cross over to her new party, a mission some Livni aides are saying has already been completed.

One party official said that "14 Kadima MKs contacted Livni, asking to join her party. But Livni isn't interested in anything. She'll have the last say on who of the MKs will join."

"As soon as the announcement is made, the MKs will meet and sign a document to request the split from Knesset Speaker [Reuven Rivlin]. The split will go into effect by Wednesday morning," the Kadima official added.

Current Knesset members who could find themselves in the newly formed party include Yoel Hasson, Robert Tiviaev, Majali Wahab, Orit Zuaretz, Rachel Adatto (Kadima), Yohanan Plesner, Doron Avital, and Meir Sheetrit.

In addition, Livni is also conducting talks with several high-profile public figures who could potentially join her ranks, including former top IDF officers Shlomo Yanai, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, and Amram Mitzna.

Speaking on the subject, one Kadima MK said that there was a lot of speculation concerning the "celebrities, but it isn't quite sure that they will happen."