MK Tzipi Livni’s announcement Monday that she was retiring from the Knesset ahead of April’s elections was met with a flood of statements from opposition lawmakers, who said that the political arena will miss an ideologue dedicated to preserving a Jewish and democratic Israel.
At a press conference earlier in the day, Livni had said she would be quitting politics at the end of the current Knesset session and pulling her Hatnua party out of the election race due to its poor polling results.
“Livni made a courageous step and Israeli politics is losing a worthy and significant person,” said opposition chief Shelly Yachimovich of the Labor party. “I saw her as a partner in striving for peace and safeguarding democracy. I’m sure Livni will continue to serve the country outside the Knesset as well, and I wish her luck.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the first member of the coalition to publicly respond to Livni’s exit, tweeted, “Ever since I was chosen to be a member of Knesset in 2003, Tzipi Livni was always there: as an MK, a minister, in the coalition, and in the opposition. Sometimes we were on the same side and sometimes on opposite sides of the barricade. In every position, I always knew that facing me was a virtuous and honest woman, and we always remained friends.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog recalled that he and Livni had together established the Zionist Union faction, which led the opposition in the last Knesset, with Herzog as leader and Livni as his number two.
“My friend Tzipi Livni is an important and patriotic Israeli leader who contributed and will continue to contribute much to the country and the Israeli people. Together we established the Zionist Union ahead of the 2015 election — a major political force, moderate and broad, that led to an extraordinary achievement and sparked hope in the hearts of many. Good luck in the future, my friend Tzipi.”
Current Labor chairman Avi Gabbay, who abruptly ended the Zionist Union partnership with Livni in front of live cameras last month in a move widely seen as a humiliation, lauded her in a statement.
“Tzipi Livni is a central partner in a camp that believes in the rule of law, a political solution (to the conflict), and the preservation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” said Gabbay. “Despite the disagreements between us, today I would like to thank her and appreciate her contribution to the state. We will continue to wave the banners of peace and democracy.”
Following the breakup of the Zionist Union, polls consistently predicted Hatnua failing to draw enough votes to remain in the Knesset, a situation that prompted Livni to withdraw her party from the April 9 elections, saying she did not want to siphon votes away from other center-left parties.
Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg called Livni “a beacon of light in a dark and racist Knesset,” saying she was particularly impressed with “her path from the deep right-wing to become one of the most prominent pro-peace, pro-democracy and anti-incitement voices even while others remained silent.”
“She will undoubtedly be missed in the next Knesset,” she said, but added she was confident Livni wasn’t gone for good.
“I sat with Tzipi Livni in the cabinet, I sat with her in the opposition,” said Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid. “We did not agree on everything, but I appreciate honesty and reason. I appreciate the fact that she has a clear moral compass and the fact that she always stayed true to her identity, even when it was difficult. Israeli politics is losing a lucid and important voice today. I wish her much success.”
MK Itzik Shmuli, who chairs the Labor party faction in the Knesset, said Livni’s “lucid, brave voice for securing a Jewish, democratic Israel will be greatly missed. The fact that, in a responsible way, she refused to endanger thousands of votes that would go to waste teaches nobility and sensibility.”
Labor MK Amir Peretz tweeted that “Tzipi Livni’s exit is a loss to the democratic camp in Israel. We worked together in many arenas and in every situation she made the struggle for peace the top priority to preserve a Jewish and democratic Israel.”
Livni’s decision to withdraw her party from the election race came after she failed to negotiate a deal to unite with another centrist or left-wing party.