Hatnua party’s Tzipi Livni called on Yair Lapid and Shelly Yachimovich to join forces with her in an effort to beat Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu’s list in the upcoming elections. Yachimovich quickly responded by inviting Livni for talks. Lapid had no immediate comment.
In an interview conducted by Channel 2 News on Friday, Livni publicly invited the leaders of Yesh Atid and Labor to hold a meeting on Saturday night or Sunday to find a way to beat Netanyahu. “There is a battle to be fought. The fight isn’t over yet. We mustn’t surrender,” she said.
Such a meeting, according to Livni, would draw in undecided voters and those who had given up on the chance of replacing Netanyahu. “Together, we have more seats that Likud-Beytenu,” she stressed.
Recent polls give the three center-left parties between 37-41 out of 120 Knesset seats. Likud-Beytenu meanwhile is polling at between 34-36 seats.
Asked by interviewers whether she would be willing to give up the top spot in such a union, Livni said, “I believe the State of Israel will face disaster if a right-wing, extremist, ultra-Orthodox government is formed. I am willing to put aside the personal issues.”
When pressed on the ego wars that reportedly took place between the trio prior to the parties submitting their party slates, and their apparent inability to agree on who would lead the bloc, Livni said, “What happened in the past doesn’t matter. What matters is what will take place in the future…. The three of us must set criteria for forming a government, participating in a government, and exiting a government.”
“The plan is not to merge parties. We saw how that harmed Likud-Beytenu. The plan is to work together to bring down Netanyahu,” explained Livni.
Livni refused, however, to echo pledges made by both Yachimovich and Lapid on Thursday that they would not take part in a government led by Netanyahu.
Livni also referred to her meetings with President Shimon Peres in recent months, calling him 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.
At the end of the interview, Livni also took time to invite her former party’s head, Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz, to the proposed gathering. Kadima is likely to send two MKs, or possibly none at all, to the next Knesset.
Shortly after the television appearance, Yachimovich reportedly sent a message to Livni, inviting her to meet at her house on Saturday.
Meretz leader Zahava Gal-on expressed support for the move and announced that if the three leaders could agree on a single candidate to lead the bloc, her party would recommend to the president to place the task of forming a government on that candidate.
The Likud-Beytenu campaign headquarters responded to Livni’s words, saying that “with the entire left-wing trying to unite against Netanyahu, a large Likud-Beytenu is needed to ensure Israel’s safety and protect its vital interests.”