Israel’s former foreign minister Tzipi Livni announced her return to politics on Tuesday at the helm of a new party called The Movement, seven months after stepping aside following a primary defeat.
“I have decided to return to politics… and to create a political party that I have named ‘The Movement’,” she told a press conference in Tel Aviv eight weeks before a snap election called for January 22.
Her announcement came the day after the ruling rightwing party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slid further to the right in a vote to choose the party’s electoral list, which saw hardliners win top spots.
“Netanyahu lost yesterday and he could lose the elections,” Livni said, referring to the results of the Likud primary.
“Israel’s situation is deteriorating,” she warned, saying: “I came to fight for peace… I won’t let people turn peace into a dirty word.
“I came to fight for security but for international support,” which would allow Israel to act to defend itself, she said.
“I came to fight for Israel as a Jewish state… for a democratic Israel.”
Livni resigned from parliament on May 1, a month after she lost the leadership of the centre-right Kadima party, the main opposition party, to challenger Shaul Mofaz.
During her tenure as opposition leader, Livni was strongly critical of Netanyahu and his rightwing coalition, and said she had no regrets about her efforts to revive stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.
Livni is a lawyer by training and became head of Kadima after its former leader Ehud Olmert resigned in the face of corruption charges.
A mother of two, she hails from a family of hardline Jewish nationalists and began her political career in the Likud party now led by Netanyahu, leaving it in 2005 along with then-prime minister Ariel Sharon for the newly formed Kadima faction.
She has been cast as an increasingly moderate Israeli politician, despite her rightwing background, speaking publicly about the need for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“I believe we need to reach a just agreement (with the Palestinians) in a responsible and sober manner, which will preserve Israel as Jewish and democratic,” she said Tuesday.
“Israel is going into an election with many people, like me, feeling that Israel’s situation is deteriorating. There is no personal or ideological alternative to the prime minister, and there is no one who represents our positions on the most critical issues facing Israel.”
She slammed what she called the “misguided policy” of Netanyahu’s government, in particular its readiness to strike an Egyptian-brokered truce with the Islamist rulers of Hamas but its reservations about talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
“Everything is upside down: a government which negotiates with terror but freezes all dialogue with those who are operating to prevent terror attacks,” she said.
Kadima has seen its popularity slide since it won the most seats in parliament in 2009 elections.
As then party leader, Livni failed to secure enough parliamentary allies to form a coalition, and the faction remained in opposition until her successor Mofaz took it briefly into the government following his leadership victory.
In a statement following the Monday announcement, Kadima snidely wished Livni “success in her new path.”
“At the same time, one wonders what Livni could succeed in achieving with a few mandates, that she couldn’t achieve with 28 mandates over a period of four years,” the statement said of her term as the faction’s leader.
“This is a politically unwise move, which, instead of unifying the (centrist) bloc, fragments it all the more.”
And the Likud, which still holds the breakaways who backed Sharon in pulling out of Gaza responsible for what has since happened in the territory, slammed her for “supporting the disengagement and bringing Hamas to Gaza.”
“The eternal deliberator, who can’t make her mind up on anything, is nationally irresponsible and lacking geopolitical wisdom and, no less bad than that, broadcasts weakness to our enemies.”