Tzipi Livni Bows Out — What Might Have Been

Tzipi Livni is a remarkable figure of the last two decades of Israeli political life.  The progeny of a family of followers of Revisionist (rightwing) Zionist leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, she emerged into politics as a Likud MK and then as an important government minister under Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert — eventually succeeding Olmert as leader of their new moderate, peace-oriented Kadima party. 

She represented an alternative path for Israel that almost succeeded, when Kadima narrowly won more votes than Netanyahu’s Likud in 2009 but could not pull together a governing coalition.  There was also the very real possibility that she could have served as second in command to then Labor party head Isaac Herzog, when their joint “Zionist Union” electoral list seemed headed for victory in 2015 — until Netanyahu made a blatant last-minute anti-Arab appeal to rally voters to Likud, who would have otherwise voted for more rightwing parties.  

She was a dove but not really a leftist.  It’s a sad commentary on the Israeli political scene today that after being dismissed publicly, without warning, by Labor party leader Gabbay, she was unable to ally her small HaTnua (the Movement) party with either the new rising centrist force headed by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz or the older champion of centrism, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, because she was seen as too much of a “leftist,” i.e., a dove.  

This is from the Haaretz news story, “Tzipi Livni Quits Politics as Polls Show Plummeting Support“:

“Lawmaker Tzipi Livni announced Monday she is retiring from politics and that her party, Hatnuah, won’t run in the April 9 election in order to prevent the center-left bloc from losing votes. Livni said that recently, the word peace has become a vulgarity in Israel and that she has had to pay a price for her beliefs. ‘I am leaving politics but I will not allow the hope for peace to leave Israel,’ she said. ‘I have the internal strength to continue fighting but we don’t have enough political power to actualize our vision on our own,’ she added.”

This is from her press announcement as reported by the JTA news service:

“Netanyahu is attacking the media, law enforcement and the judicial system. If he is not stopped, it would be the end of democracy in Israel,” she said.

“The last years have been tough, peace has become a dirty word, democracy is under attack, and having a different political position has become a curse, annexation has received more and more support, and now the one in charge is trying to take over the justice system while he attacks the media and law enforcement,” she said.

Livni’s HaTnua party has six members in the current Knesset, including her. Her party merged for the last elections with the Labor Party under the name Zionist Union. On January 1, Labor head Avi Gabbay unceremoniously dissolved the partnership, blindsiding Livni with the announcement.

Livni, 60, was formerly a leader in the Likud Party, later joining the centrist Kadima party upon its formation in 2005, and then heading it. She has served in Knesset since 1999, and has held several ministerial positions including Justice and Foreign Affairs. She currently serves as Leader of the Opposition.

These are the headline and subhead of The Times of Israel story:  

Leaving politics, Livni warns this election may be last gasp of democracy: After failing to secure center-left bloc, Hatnua leader says she doesn’t want votes wasted, charges PM trying to take over justice system while he attacks media, law enforcement.