Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said it was “essential” she be tapped as the Knesset’s next opposition leader in order to preserve her Hatnua party’s alliance with Labor in the Zionist Union faction.
“Leading the opposition is essential for the partnership to continue,” Livni said at a faction meeting Monday, hours after outgoing opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who is giving up his Knesset seat shortly to become head of the Jewish Agency, recommended her for the position.
Livni’s Hatnua merged with Herzog’s Labor in 2015 to form the Zionist Union slate ahead of that year’s parliamentary elections. She had initially agreed to a two-year rotation of the premiership if the Zionist Union was tasked with forming the coalition, but backed out of the rotation hours before the election.
In most cases, the leader of the largest Knesset opposition party is the opposition leader, but Avi Gabbay, who defeated Herzog in a primary to take the helm of Labor in 2017, cannot take on the position as he is not currently a member of the Knesset.
As a result, Gabbay is tasked with selecting a sitting Knesset member for the senior role and submitting a request to this effect to the Knesset speaker. The replacement leader must then receive the backing of over half of the 54 opposition Knesset members.
Gabbay began holding discussions Monday to select the next opposition leader. According to Channel 10, in addition to Livni, former Labor leaders Shelly Yachimovich and Amir Peretz are under consideration for the position.
Naming Livni opposition leader could prove to be controversial as Hatnua currently holds only five of the Zionist Union’s 24 Knesset seats.
Earlier on Monday, Herzog endorsed Livni as opposition leader in a radio interview, citing the 2015 rotation deal.
At the faction meeting later Monday, Livni touted her “special friendship” with Herzog during the faction meeting, and congratulated him on his appointment as Jewish Agency chief.
The Zionist Union has until August 1 to name a replacement for Herzog, when he officially replaces outgoing Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.