Tzipi Livni Launches Election Campaign Despite Dire Poll Predictions

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay’s decision to end its joint slate with Livni’s party caught her unprepared. She is trying to shake a left-wing reputation and find a candidate who could help her party run independently

Tzipi Livni launching her party's campaign, January 29, 2019.
Moti Milrod

Hatnuah party leader Tzipi Livni launched her party’s campaign on Tuesday in the run-up to the April 9 Knesset election.

In the 2015 election, Livni’s party ran as part of the Zionist Union on a joint slate with the Labor Party. In early January, however, Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay took the surprise move of putting an end to the joint slate.

Although no other party is currently signaling an interest in joining forces with Livni, a former foreign minister and justice minister who had been a member of Likud and headed the now-defunct Kadima party, she told a Tel Aviv news conference on Tuesday that the possibility is still on the table.

“I believe in political blocs and imagine the moment when hope will return to the peace camp, which is currently confused. As soon as that issue is top priority we’ll see a very different election campaign here,” Livni said.

Opinion polls currently show that Hatnuah would fall short of the minimum 3.25 percent threshold required for Knesset representation if it runs on its own. The two largest centrist parties according to the polls, Benny Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, appear concerned about joining forces with Livni due to what they perceive as her left-wing image. Livni refuses to characterize herself as left or right and a source cited polling data showing that 57 percent of her supporters characterize themselves as centrist or moderately right-wing.

Sources in Hatnuah said the prospect of a linkup with Gantz is still a possibility. They also raised the prospect of joining forces with Lapid, if an expanded Hosen L’Yisrael slate hurts his Yesh Atid party.

Livni is running on a Hebrew slogan containing the double meaning of “the only one to protect democracy” and “the democracy protection unit.” Hatnuah is seeking to position itself as the party safeguarding Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state and defending the Supreme Court and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who has come under criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in advance of Mendelblit’s pending decision over whether to indict the prime minister in multiple corruption probes.

“The citizens of Israel deserve a prime minister who doesn’t incite them against their police, who doesn’t ruin the judicial system and doesn’t cause them to harm those protecting them,” Livni said.

If Hatnuah goes it alone in the election, party sources said there are discussions with a candidate who would significantly enhance the slate, but declined to disclose who it is.