Livni Mulls Running as Head of New Party in Israeli Elections, Sources Say

Former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni is expected to reach a decision 'within days,' regardless of whether former PM Ehud Olmert joins the race.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Sources close to former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni believe she intends to run in the upcoming Knesset elections. Her decision is expected "within days," and will be taken without any connection to whether former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert runs or not.

If Livni decides to present her candidacy, she is expected to focus on the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, which is being all but ignored by Labor and Likud. Livni is set to call for an agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' relatively moderate leadership. A source close to Livni explained: "Both Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Lapid [head of Yesh Atid] are willing to enter [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's government. They have no interest in the peace process. Livni, on the other hand, will place the issue as her top priority. She believes that in four years, Abbas will no longer be a part of the Palestinian leadership, and the fact that Israel hasn't promoted agreements during his tenure is a huge missed opportunity."

These sources added that Livni has recently received polls predicting that if she leads a new centrist party, it would receive 12 to 16 Knesset seats. "The polling data and the public's attitude to Livni are positive and flattering, and encourage her to run," said a source who has been in recent contact with Livni.

The source added that "at present, she is examining the possibility of leading a new centrist party [being set up by Haim Ramon]. Still, she doesn't reject out of hand the possibility of later joining Yair Lapid or Shelly Yacimovich, if it might lead to a bloc that would stymie Netanyahu." Aryeh Deri's return to politics also adds to the belief in Livni's circles that Likud will have less support than the polls currently predict.

A source close to Livni said "she has no problem running. As far as she's concerned, it is definitely a possible move, but the question is if this move can achieve significant goals: Can it increase the power of the non-Netanyahu bloc, and can Livni's success in the elections promote the peace process?" The source added that "Livni gave up on her dream to be prime minister. She certainly sees herself as the foreign minister in an alternative government."

In recent days, Livni has held many meetings while taking care to keep the media in the dark. "Livni has met PR men, public figures and various people whose opinion she respects, but she still refrains from talking to politicians or journalists," this source said, adding that "even the Kadima MKs who are loyal to her are largely unaware of the developments. She knows that the MKs, too, have interests and would like to see her run, hoping it would increase their chances of being reelected."

Former head of Israel's opposition, Tzipi Livni, at the Knesset in 2011.Credit: AP

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