With her Hatnua (The Movement) party showing no signs of taking off in recent polls, Tzipi Livni is already mulling the option of taking a second time out from her political career after the general elections on January 22, the Hebrew-language daily Israel Hayom reported on Sunday.
The Hatnua party denied the report.
The report cited sources in Hatnua to the effect that Livni, who in November announced a dramatic comeback, was disappointed with the results of surveys that have consistently given her party around 10 seats in the coming Knesset — despite the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list appears to be sliding.
Livni has no intention of being a “simple MK,” and will announce her resignation as party head if her party doesn’t win enough seats or if coalition talks with Likud-Yisrael Beytenu don’t bear fruit, said the unnamed source. She has been discussing the option with colleagues in Hatnua, the report said.
Having served as foreign minister during Ehud Olmert’s premiership, Livni was Kadima’s chair and the leader of the opposition during much of Netanyahu’s current term as prime minister. She stepped down after losing to Shaul Mofaz in the battle for the leadership of Kadima in May. On November 27, she announced her comeback at the helm of Hatnua.
On Friday night it was reported that Hatnua and the other two leading center-left parties, Shelly Yachimovich’s Labor and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, were exploring possibilities for working together after the elections to try to prevent Netanyahu from retaining the prime ministership, or at least to wield the strongest possible hand in coalition negotiations with him.
Efforts to merge at least some of the center-left parties foundered in the weeks before the deadline for submitting party lists for the elections earlier this month. A bid for a Labor-Hatnua alliance made some headway, but collapsed because both Yachimovich and Livni wanted to lead any such merged slate.
Livni said Friday that, after the elections, she would “attempt to create a front with other partners with the same worldview… with the imperative to replace Netanyahu.”
Channel 2 news on Friday night reported contacts between Labor and Hatnua, and indicated that Yesh Atid was also interested in the possibility of cooperation against Netanyahu after the elections, but Lapid on Saturday poured cold water on the notion.
“Livni clearly won’t be sticking around,” the Yesh Atid leader said. “Her plan to become an alternative to Netanyahu has collapsed and crumbled into dust, and she certainly won’t sit in Knesset as the head of an opposition party with only eight seats and as the vice chair of the Knesset’s State Control Committee” — a relatively minor parliamentary role.
Instead, Lapid taunted, Livni would “do what she always does — go home.”
Hatnua denied that Livni was thinking of stepping down but made no mention of the possibility of a long run in the opposition for her party.
“Livni came back to be a central player in the elections,” a senior member of the party told the paper Sunday. “She hasn’t relinquished her ambition to head the next government. She knew what she was getting into, and she isn’t going anywhere.”