Livni resigns, early elections on horizon

Former opposition leader Tzipi Livni resigned from Israel’s Knesset amid speculation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will call for early elections.

Livni delivered a prepared statement May 1 prior to a meeting with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin at which she submitted her letter of resignation.

Livni said that although she was leaving the Knesset, she was not going to absent herself from public life. In a swipe at Netanyahu, she said in her speech that she was “not sorry for refusing to sell out the government to the haredi Orthodox in order to form a government.”

Livni will remain in the Kadima Party for now but will not run in the next elections as a candidate. It has been rumored that she could join the new party of former journalist Yair Lapid, who registered Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future”) on April 29; she also might form her own party. If she does so, a number of Knesset members from Kadima might resign from Kadima to join forces with her.

Tzipi Livni photo/brian hendler

“With [Shaul] Mofaz at the helm [of Kadima], it is almost certain we will split from the party,” one of the lawmakers said.

Kadima won 28 seats in the last Knesset elections, but a recent poll showed it is expected to win only 11 in the next general elections, meaning 17 of the party’s members may find themselves out of the next Knesset.

“Knesset members who supported Livni do not feel comfortable with Mofaz and his associates. Most of them know they will not have a spot in the next Knesset, so it is worthwhile for them to join Livni now,” a Kadima member said.

In 1999, two years after leaving her law practice to become a Knesset member in Likud, Livni was given a ministerial portfolio. By 2006 as foreign minister, she was second in command of Kadima, then Israel’s ruling party, and in the 2009 general election she led the party to garner 28 Knesset seats — one more than Likud. But Livni was unable to form a coalition after Netanyahu assembled a bloc of religious and right-wing parties.

Meanwhile, the Likud-led governing coalition filed a motion May 2 to dissolve the Knesset and hold early elections in September, a year ahead of schedule.

The reasons for early elections include Netanyahu’s desire to consolidate his position ahead of U.S. elections in November, as well as the looming coalition crisis over the Tal Law, which gives military deferments for full-time yeshiva students.

Polls have shown that Netanyahu’s Likud Party would gain more seats in early elections — 30 seats, versus 18 for Labor, 13 for Yisrael Beiteinu and 11 seats for Kadima. — & jta