Leader – Tzipi Livni
Party’s Official Name: Hatnuah
MKs in current Knesset – 0 (7 MKs from Kadima are defecting to Hatnuah)
Latest Haaretz poll – 10
Eight months after she lost the Kadima leadership and resigned from the Knesset, Tzipi Livni is back with a new centrist party – Hatnua (The Movement) – and an agenda which focuses primarily on the diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority. Her rivals blame her for further splitting the center-left bloc just to serve her own ego; she claims, in return, that she is the only one offering an alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu and that her presence will help bring more votes to “the bloc.”
Coming late to the game, Livni had little chance to form an attractive list of Knesset candidates. Her team includes groups of refugees from her former party, Kadima, as well two former Labor leaders: Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who Labor on the eve of the elections and Amram Mitzna who, despite being a successful mayor of both Haifa and Yeruham, failed to leave his mark during his short stint as a national politician. Another candidate is Merav Cohen, a 29-year-old Jerusalem city councilor.
So, what does Livni have that her rivals, mainly Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Lapid, lack? For a start – experience, and not just as foreign minister and member of the inner cabinet in the previous government (along with then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak); but also, knowledge of five other government ministries which she headed during her whirlwind career. In addition, she is the only party leader in the center who is willing to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the peace process at the top her agenda. She also seems the least eager to serve as a coalition member in Netanyahu’s next cabinet, which is all but likely to be formed after the elections.
But alongside those achievements, she has been branded as a political failure. She missed two opportunities – as the leader of Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset before and after the 2009 elections – to form a government and become prime minister. What’s more, under her leadership, Kadima was an ineffectual and fractious opposition. But more than anything else, her March 2012 defeat in the Kadima leadership contest to Shaul Mofaz by a 25-percent margin is still fresh in mind.
And yet, only days after launching her party, Livni is already taking Knesset seats from Labor and Yesh Atid in the polls, she has a team of seasoned political operators behind her, including disgraced minister Haim Ramon, and unlike the other center party she left behind, she is still a force to be reckoned with.