Livni heading for 10 seats, and Barak will make it back into the Knesset, poll shows

Ousted Kadima chief set to run as head of her own party, may recruit ex-Labor leader and former general Amram Mitzna

Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, pictured in 2009 (Photo credit: Gil Yohanan/Flash90)
Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, pictured in 2009 (Photo credit: Gil Yohanan/Flash90)

Former foreign minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni would win 10 seats at the head of a new party in the January elections, an opinion poll showed Friday.

The same poll, for Channel 2 by respected pollster Mina Zemach, indicated that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who heads his own Atzmaut (Independence) party, will clear the Knesset threshold and return to parliament with four seats. Prior to Operation Pillar of Defense against Hamas, which Barak stewarded, polls indicated he would not secure a Knesset seat.

Livni is expected in the near future to announce that she will run in the January 22 elections. She is said to be waiting first for former prime minister Ehud Olmert to make clear that he will not be contending. Channel 2 said Livni was in the process of recruiting former Labor leader and ex-general Amram Mitzna, a former mayor of Haifa and Yeruham, to run on her list.

The Channel 2 poll found Livni’s party winning 10 seats, in part by taking two seats away from Labor (which the survey said would win 19 seats), and four seats from the new, centrist Yesh Atid (now heading for 10 seats).

It also showed the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu partnership declining to 34 seats — from 42 in the outgoing Knesset, and 40 in polls while Pillar of Defense was ongoing. The rightist National Union would win 10 seats, it showed, underlining a swing to the right among some disappointed Likud supporters. The survey still showed a bloc headed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heading easily for reelection.

Livni, who inherited the leadership of the Kadima party from Olmert and relinquished it after losing in primaries this year to Shaul Mofaz, will vie for votes at the head of a new political party formed on the basis of the secular Zionist Hetz, or Arrow, party, Israel Radio reported on Friday.

Hetz, which is an acronym in Hebrew for “secular Zionist,” was formed by former politician Avraham Poraz and 10 other MKs from the liberal Shinui, or Change, party. Hetz failed to pass the 2 percent electoral threshold for entering the Knesset in 2006.

Livni had been the source of rumors that she would attempt to form a new centrist party with her former colleague, Olmert.

“I gave Olmert breathing room to reach a decision, which will also affect my own decision,” Livni said at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya earlier this month. “This saga is taking too much time and will be over in two or three days,” she indicated before the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, which ended with a ceasefire on Wednesday.

It was reported before the Gaza operation that Livni wanted to let Olmert announce his decision first, which appears to still be the case. The former prime minister is expected to announce on Sunday his decision to not run in the upcoming elections, after Olmert’s internal polling reportedly showed that a party headed by him would not garner enough votes to unseat Netanyahu. Olmert is still heavily embroiled in legal difficulties, as a defendant in the Holyland real estate trial and facing a state appeal against his acquittals this summer in two major corruption cases.

Leaders of the left-leaning Labor and left-wing Meretz parties are reportedly furious with Livni for her decision to throw her hat in the ring, saying that she will only pull votes from centrist and left-leaning factions, while Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc is likely to remain intact. Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich implored her to run with Labor, but Livni reportedly refused to be number two to anybody, preferring to head her own list.

Other recent polling also indicated that Livni would take votes from anchorman-turned-politician Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and decimate the floundering Kadima party; several former Kadima MKs are expected to join Livni’s roster.

Strengthening Livni’s security credentials is another ex-general, Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, a former Kadima MK and ex-head of Israel’s space program. A third ex-general linked to Livni, Teva pharmaceuticals head Shlomo Yanai, is not now expected to run. Also on the prospective Livni list are “Suckers’ Tent” protest leader Boaz Nol — campaigning for universal conscription — and the former Israeli ambassador to France, Daniel Shek.

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