Amid dismal poll predictions, Livni set to announce retirement from politics
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Amid dismal poll predictions, Livni set to announce retirement from politics

After failing to secure center-left bloc, Hatnua leader expected to say she doesn’t want votes wasted if party won’t pass electoral threshold in April election

Head of the Hatnua party MK Tzipi Livni speaks at the campaign opening event of in Tel Aviv on January 29, 2019. (Flash90)
Head of the Hatnua party MK Tzipi Livni speaks at the campaign opening event of in Tel Aviv on January 29, 2019. (Flash90)

Veteran lawmaker Tzipi Livni, who has been almost a fixture in the Knesset for nearly 20 years, is set to announce Monday that she is quitting politics and pulling her Hatnua party out of the election race due to its poor polling results, a source close to the former minister told The Times of Israel.

Hatnua said Monday morning that Livni will give a press statement in Tel Aviv at 1:30 p.m., three days before the Thursday deadline for parties to declare their election slates.

She is expected to say that she doesn’t want to harm the center-left bloc by drawing votes for her party when it doesn’t seem likely to pass the Knesset minimum threshold of 3.25% of the votes, the source told The Times of Israel.

“I don’t intend to throw away center-left votes,” Livni told confidants in private conversations, making it clear that she wouldn’t run if it seemed she couldn’t clear the threshold, the Yedioth Ahronoth reported earlier Monday.

The decision comes after failing to negotiate a deal to unite with another centrist party, the news site reports.

Two polls published on Sunday by Channel 12 television and the Kan public broadcaster both gave Hatnua less than 1% of the vote.

In the previous Knesset, Hatnua had been partnered with the Labor party to form the Zionist Union. On January 1 she was ousted from the opposition alliance on live television by Labor leader Avi Gabbay and since then Hatnua has slipped in the polls. By hitching Hatnua with another, larger centrist party, polls have shown that Livni could add two seats or more to the other party’s tally.

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay (L) announces the shock breakup of the Zionist Union as his erstwhile partner, head of opposition Tzipi Livni, looks on, during a party faction meeting in the Knesset on January 1, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Livni was said to be eager to join with Israel Resilience — predicted to be the second largest party after the election — although sources in that centrist party say leader Benny Gantz was reluctant to agree because he worried that Livni is seen as “too leftist.”

The Yedioth Aharonoth report said that Livni rejected an offer by the dovish Meretz party to run a joint campaign for the elections aimed at maximizing their votes, but which would then be split apart again after the election.

As an alternative to forming an alliance, and in a last-minute effort to boost her party’s appeal, Livni also reportedly tried to sign up some high-profile figures for her party’s slate. Names mentioned have included former prime minister Ehud Barak and former minister Dan Meridor.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak at a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, at the Ben Zvi Institute in Jerusalem on June 5, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Sunday a source in the centrist Yesh Atid party told the Israel Hayom daily, which had first reported on Livni’s retirement thoughts, that “there never were and never will be” any negotiations for her to unite with the party.

Yesh Atid is currently polling as the third largest party after Israel Resilience, with the ruling Likud party predicted to be overall election winner and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to be tasked with forming the next government.

Livni began her political career as a member of Knesset for the Likud party in 1999. In 2005 she joined the Kadima party set up by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, and was elected chair of the party in 2008.

In 2012 she set up her own Hatnua party after resigning from the Knesset earlier that year following her defeat in Kadima party leadership primaries. In the 2013 elections Hatnua won six seats, and she was made justice minister in a coalition with Netanyahu as well as being appointed in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians. For the 2014 elections she united Hatnua with the Labor party to form the Zionist Union. She was opposition leader from July 2017 until the beginning of 2019 when the Zionist Union was dissolved.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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