Shimon Peres and Tzipi Livni.
Shimon Peres and Tzipi Livni. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Tzipi Livni may be contemplating a return to politics herself after a term as chairwoman of Kadima, but meanwhile she is strongly urging President Shimon Peres to step down from his lofty post and run as prime minister on behalf of the center-left camp.

Livni has been discussing the idea with Peres, 89, by phone and during meetings in his office. Haim Ramon, formerly a minister with Kadima, has joined in the persuasion effort.

Political sources with knowledge of these conversations assert that while Peres has not ruled out the option of running, nor has he acceded to the request.  

Livni’s effort stems from the fact that she doesn’t feel comfortable with either of the political scenarios on the horizon: that she will be forced to be number two on a list headed by former prime minister Ehud Olmert (if he decides to jump back into the fray), or that she will run at the head of an independent list. On the other hand, she has no problem being Peres’ number two – if in fact he decides to run. Livni has been saying recently that the only way to topple Netanyahu and replace the current government is by unifying the center-left bloc.

Advocates of the move claim that Peres’ candidacy at the head of such a bloc makes sense for two reasons: Peres is the only one able to capture valuable seats from the right, due to his enormous public approval rating. Secondly, he is the only person able to convince the ultra-Orthodox Shas party to endorse him as prime minister to whoever replaces him as president, based on his good relations with the party’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and joint chairman Aryeh Deri.

Livni’s associates confirmed in a statement that she had suggested to the president to run, since she believes there is no one more worthy to lead the centrist camp. They added that Livni’s place on the list had not come up in her conversations with Peres.

The President’s Residence said Peres had no comment about the private conversations he has been having. “Peres will not run. Period,” said officials close to the president.

On Tuesday, Peres himself told Israeli reporters escorting him on his trip to Moscow: “I’m the president of the State of Israel. I do not and will not concern myself with other matters.”