Livni supporters celebrate, say numbers will rise

Tzipi Livni party says "revolution is possible" after reports of high turnout throughout the day.

January 23, 2013 03:28
4 minute read.
Tzipi Livni votes in Tel Aviv on Election Day, January 22, 2013.

Livni votes 22.1.13 Tlv . (photo credit: Courtesy of the Movement Party)

Cheers arose at The Tzipi Livni Party campaign closing event in Tel Aviv Tuesday night as Channel 2’s exit polls showed the party with seven seats in the 19th Knesset.

Slightly beating expectations from the last poll, which put the party at six, activists maintained a positive outlook, chanting, “Revolution!” and promising that the numbers would only go up.

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“This is just the beginning,” said one activist.

The crowd allowed itself an extra moment of glee when the projections showed Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima Party obliterated, not passing the two-seat threshold. Mofaz successfully ousted Livni from Kadima in a primary last year.

“I am back to stay,” Livni reassured the crowd. “And I will stay to complete the mission we took upon ourselves.”

Praising the party for racking up a quarter of a million votes in only eight weeks of campaigning, she added, “We are here in order to advance the bloc and build an alternative, and that’s what happened this evening in Israel, and nobody can take that from us or anyone else.”

Earlier, in the middle of an election day packed with campaign stops and phone calls, visiting polls from Ashdod to Ramat Hasharon and, of course, voting, Livni stopped at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital to welcome the newborn baby of Merav Cohen, the ninth candidate on her party’s list.

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“This wonderful baby symbolizes what we’re fighting for – the decisions that need to be made deal with life and death, with peace and, God forbid, even war,” said Livni, who had accompanied Cohen to the hospital when she went into labor the night before elections. “Those decisions and these elections will affect these babies and their futures.”

The theme of rebirth is fitting for Livni, who led Kadima to an electoral victory in the last election only to fail in coalition negotiations, get ousted from her own party, quit politics altogether, and finally attempt a comeback with a new party. On Tuesday, her campaign’s Obama-esque slogan of hope permeated the party: hope that they could make a difference, hope for another chance, and hope for beating the latest polls.

Casting her ballot at the Yisgav School near her home in northern Tel Aviv, Livni said, “I put in that envelope my hopes – not just my personal ones, but the ones for the State of Israel as a whole.”

When photographers asked her to flash her pearly whites for the cameras as she put her ballot into the box, however, she wryly replied: “I’ll smile when the polls come in.”

Stopping by her campaign headquarters to call volunteers in her party, she said, “The elections are not a reality program. We don’t take chances with our children.”

The party list’s No. 3, Amir Peretz, said the day would be a “Yom Kippur”-style day of atonement for the country’s pollsters. A former defense minister whose investment in the Iron Dome rocket defense system has restored some shine to his lackluster reputation in that position, Peretz cast his ballot in his hometown of Sderot, which has been beleaguered by Gazan rockets.

“Just as I looked further ahead of anyone and insisted on the Iron Dome, I am looking ahead and seeing the connection with Tzipi Livni,” he said.

The party ran on a platform of peace, putting a deal with the Palestinians front and center.

“Although the word ‘peace’ has been considered a forbidden word in recent years, I am convinced that peace is achievable,” said Meir Sheetrit, fifth on the party’s list, after voting in Yavne. “It’s our opportunity to end our political isolation and to cut our defense budget in favor of developing Israel in all spheres: education, economy, trade and manufacturing, developing the Negev and Galilee, and more.”

Alon Tal, whose Green Movement merged with Livni’s party, led activists on a bike ride throughout Tel Aviv to drum up support, encouraging citizens enjoying their day off in the beautiful weather to leave their barbecues long enough to go vote.

“The Green Movement understands the importance of high turnout, and we want the public in Tel Aviv to know that Greens vote for Tzipi,” said party member Amir Rockman, 32, who participated in the biking effort.

The bike tour gave the party an advantage, Rockman said, because few other parties had decided to canvas in Tel Aviv’s parks, and the bikers had free rein to tackle undecided voters from the Yarkon Park to the beach to the ports.

“We have very high support for the environmental agenda,” he said. “Many people asked us whom to vote for.”

The two biggest troubles they encountered? For one, people hadn’t heard about the union between the environmentalists and Livni. For another, previous Livni voters still felt burned by her previous political failures.

“A lot of people were concerned about giving their voice to Livni again,” Rockman said.

However, Livni was buoyed by reports of high turnout throughout the day, which significantly exceeded previous years.

“We managed to wake Israel up!” she said on a tour of polling stations in Rishon Lezion before taking a swipe at “trendy,” inexperienced party leaders – echoing criticism she had repeatedly leveled against Center-Left competitors Shelly Yacimovich of Labor, and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid. “The revolution is possible!”

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