The Israeli Labor Party is bracing itself for the eventuality that Tzipi Livni will announce the establishment of a new political party under her leadership in the upcoming week. Polls predict the new party will receive some ten Knesset seats, not by pulling in votes from the right but by taking voters away from Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, Kadima, and the Labor Party.
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Senior members of the Labor Party attacked the not-yet-formed party. "Going against all that she promised, Livni is planning to run despite the fact that it is clear that she has no chance of beating Netanyahu and will not be able to unite the center block behind her. It is a stupid move that will lead to a new party with a single-digit result in the elections, finishing Livni's career," a senior member of the Labor Party warned.
Labor Party Chairman Shelly Yacimovich commented on the subject Saturday at a talk with Tel Aviv seniors. Yacimovich attacked Livni's plans, but added that Livni "deserves a place in the Israeli political system – She should take that place together with me and not split up the centrist block. The right way to do it is together, not apart."
"Any new party to throw its hat into the race will hurt us very little – we will remain the leading party," Yacimovich added. "That is why anyone who thinks replacing the country's leadership is a top priority should join the Labor Party headed by me."
According to Yacimovich "The founding of new parties within the same voter pool harms the chances of taking down the Netanyahu government and replacing it, leading to a schism instead of unity. Those interested in replacing the regime, replace Netanyahu and supplant him with a government better for Israel, shouldn't establish new parties that will anyway remain small and will compete for the same voters, not serving as a real alternative. The only alternative is the Labor Party under my leadership."
A member of Livni's close circle responded to Yacimovich's comments, saying "Livni's reentrance into politics revives the hope in the hearts of many Israelis, providing a solution for those looking for an alternative to Netanyahu, and will lead to a larger centrist block. Shelly is able but only has a limited agenda; while on the other hand, Livni presents a personal alternative with experience and diplomatic and defense policy plans that will determine the future of Israel. Livni hopes that all members of the block will do whatever it takes to optimize the chances that she beat Netanyahu."
Livni may announce the establishment of the new party on Monday. People in her close circle said she was waiting for a date without a news story that would steal her thunder, with Sunday already taken by the Likud primaries and Thursday by the Labor Party primaries.
Livni's campaign is expected to focus on Israel's international relations. "Livni will run on a ticket: 'Netanyahu is strengthening the Hamas, while Livni will strengthen the moderates,'" a person with knowledge of her campaign said.
Livni held negotiations with Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, hoping he would join her party but these were unsuccessful. Other candidates being considered are Maj. Gen (res.) Shlomo Yanai, Professor Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, and Amram Mitzna, but these haven't yet given a concrete agreement to join Livni's list. Livni is expected to be joined by a limited number of Kadima MPs, including Shlomo Molla, Yoel Hasson, and Robert Tiviaev, as well as, Boaz Nul, head of the movement fighting draft evasion.