It’s a familiar scenario. Politician suffers humiliating defeat, slinks off for a while, and returns refreshed and ready to conquer the political map. Netanyahu did this after he lost the premiership to Ehud Barak in 1999, Barak did the same after he lost the top job to Ariel Sharon two years later, and now Tzipi Livni, barely half a year after her defeat by Shaul Mofaz for the leadership of Kadima, announced on Tuesday that she too is returning to politics.
“I came to fight,” is the Livni quote that Yedioth Ahronoth uses for its front-page headline. Livni’s new party, named “The Movement,” already saw six Kadima Knesset members join its ranks, thought the rest of the party’s list has yet to be revealed to the public. Listing her reasons for establishing her own party, Livni said, “I decided to give an option to those voters who don’t have a choice. A ballot doesn’t need to be a ballot of despair and hopelessness. We will return the hope.”
Nachum Barnea writes in an adjoining opinion piece about the “Livni effect.” Barnea thinks that one of the main outcomes of Livni joining the race is that it will focus the campaign on diplomatic issues. “Livni returns the focus of the campaign to diplomacy, something that has been pushed aside in these elections. Yesterday, at the press conference, she dared to say aloud the word that everyone (aside from the far left) is afraid to say these days: peace.”
Haaretz covers the Livni comeback with a spanking new poll. While Livni wants to return the hope, Haaretz’s poll pretty much dashes it. The poll found that Livni is taking votes away from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Labor. According to the poll, Livni would get seven seats, Yair Lapid would get eight, and Labor would get 18. On top of that, Likud Beteynu actually got stronger with 39 seats, which the paper attributes to a bump from last week’s mini-war. And what about Livni’s old party, Kadima? According to the poll it would receive only 2 seats.
“A cool reception for Livni,” is how Israel Hayom characterizes the news of Livni’s comeback. On its front page it quotes other politicians attacking Livni’s decision, including a quote from Yair Lapid saying, “Her motive — ego.” The paper also runs a Likud line about Livni’s decision, “It is irresponsible and lacks political wisdom.”
Dan Margalit writes in Israel Hayom: “Livni is limping back into the ring.” Margalit grants that Livni has two strengths, one of which being “she kept her hands clean, which is especially noteworthy because her party [Kadima] had many people involved in criminal activities and corruption”; the other being that she insisted on open negotiations with the Palestinians and not secret talks like Olmert was conducting. Despite these qualities, Margalit concludes that Livni’s return won’t harm the Likud. “It serves the existing regime… the list of candidates is a magnet that draws votes from the opposition.”
Maariv’s political coverage scores very little front-page real estate (more on that later) but the early pages of the paper cover the Livni announcement and everything else happening in the election news. One standout is the report that Shelly Yachimovich is worried that the results of the Labor primary, which is scheduled to begin on Thursday, will drive away centrist voters. The paper quotes Yachimovich as saying, “Like Netanyahu, I suspect that the party list will not be in our spirit.”
Cases opened and closed
Haaretz reports on its front page that high-profile Israeli businessman Nochi Dankner is under investigation for fraud and is forbidden to leave the country. Dankner, who is the chairman of IDB, a large corporation that owns large companies like Cellcom and Clal insurance, is being investigated by the Israeli Securities Authority for manipulating the stock price of shares of IDB that were offered in February 2012. The paper reports that the government deems Dankner a flight risk and has banned him from travel abroad.
While the ISA investigates Dankner, the attorney general is expected to close the main case against Avigdor Liberman and charge him with only a misdemeanor. Yedioth reports that the decade-long corruption investigation is expected to be closed this week for lack of evidence. Instead, Liberman will face a charge of breach of trust after receiving information from Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus and then working to promote the former ambassador. The paper quotes a legal source who believes the case will end with a plea bargain.
The outside world
The majority of Maariv’s front page is dedicated to the goings on around Israel, including protests in Egypt and the Palestinians’ UN bid. A large picture of thousands of protesters during a nighttime gathering at Tahrir Square takes up most of the front page: “The protests return to Tahrir.” Despite the prominent picture, the story of the protests is buried on Page 20.
Maariv’s other front page news is that Israeli sources fear that European countries will support Mahmoud Abbas’s bid for upgrading the Palestinian Authority’s status at the UN. The article reports that Jerusalem believes that European nations, among them France, will support the Palestinian bid to upgrade its status to nonmember observer state. While there are still some doubts that the Palestinians will through with it, a Palestinian source told the paper, “If we decide not to go through with it, it won’t be because of any Israeli or American threats, it will only be because it won’t serve our interests.”
In the opinion pages of Haaretz, Zvi Bar’el chimes in on the Palestinian bid with a piece titled “Give them a state.” Bar’el argues that even if the Palestinians are granted statehood, it will be a weak state and not a threat. “What kind of threat is it when the Palestinian state cannot even dislodge one settler, place guards on its borders, or restore one dunam of ‘state lands’?” Bar’el writes that a Palestinian states doesn’t really threaten Israel, “it angers it.” He concludes with, “Once Israel gets over its anger, it will realize that an official Palestinian state, even one that Hamas is helping to run, can be a more responsible partner for conducting daily life that two authorities fighting each other.”