Likud party members attacked President Shimon Peres, calling him a “meddlesome old man” who was “deliberately attempting to derail the position of the prime minister,” after reports came out that he had met with Hatnua leader Tzipi Lvini on Friday, hours before she called on centrist parties to unite in order to defeat Benjamin Netanyhau in the upcoming election.
“Peres will do anything to turn the government train to the left,” a Likud member said according to the Israel Hayom daily Sunday.
Livni was reportedly accompanied to the meeting by former Kadima lawmaker Haim Ramon, and she presented the president — a former Labor prime minister and Kadima minister — with poll results that showed that a center-left coalition could command more than 40 Knesset seats.
The president’s office issued a statement Sunday denying that Peres “interfered in elections matters.”
Under the Israeli system, after a general election the president issues a formal invitation to the leader of the largest party — or the one the president deems most capable of building a Knesset majority — to form a governing coalition, and if successful, that leader becomes the prime minister. If the center-left coalesces around a single leader, then the invitation could potentially be issued to that person, instead of Likud-Beytenu head Netanyahu.
In such a scenario, however, the potential center-left leader would face great difficulty forming a government, as all polls point to a clear right-leaning majority in the upcoming Knesset. Livni found herself in a similar situation as head of Kadima, which won the most Knesset seats in the 2009 election. Then, Livni was unable to form a coalition against the more numerous right-wing parties and Netanyahu ultimately became prime minister.
In a Friday interview to Channel 2 News, Livni called Peres a concerned citizen who is engaged in Israel’s political happenings. “He cares, he wants to see the State of Israel entering the negotiating room and reaching an agreement [with the Palestinians],” she said. ”I share in the concerns that he expressed. That’s why I returned to politics.”
Responding to the right wing’s criticism of Peres for statements he made last week calling on the government to put more effort into reaching an agreement with the Palestinians and expressing faith in PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Livni said, “For two years I saw Israel’s president running around the world telling people that Bibi will bring about peace. I knew it wouldn’t happen, but he believed it. I didn’t like it, but I never said anything publicly.”
“The Likud is systematically shutting people up and killing the messenger. When I speak, they say I am in cahoots with the enemy. When Peres talks, they say it is not his place,” she said.
Livni’s Friday proposal was supported by Labor head Shelly Yachimovich but Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid told Channel 10 that forming an opposition bloc to Netanyahu was unrealistic as it would necessitate cooperation with the Arab parties. If Netanyahu is forming the next government, Lapid wants all the centrist parties to join it, to offset hardline right-wing and ultra-Orthodox leverage.
The three party leaders are reportedly set to meet some time in the next few days to discuss the proposal.