Olmert, Livni discuss campaign to defeat Netanyahu

Former Kadima leaders consider running together, say "Israel's deteriorated status" calls for a change in leadership; poll predicts 27 seats for a party headed by Livni and Communication Minister Moshe Kahlon.

November 1, 2012 03:12
2 minute read.
Former PM Olmert and Former FM Livni [file]

Olmert and Livni 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Former Kadima leaders Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni announced on Wednesday they were discussing a partnership that could shake up Israeli politics and lead to a joint campaign to defeat Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the upcoming January election.

A statement from an aide to Olmert said he and Livni had agreed "action must be taken to change the leadership", citing what it called "Israel's deteriorated status" under Netanyahu. It alluded to tensions with the United States about how to rein in Iran's nuclear program and diplomatic paralysis with the Palestinians.

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Both agreed to continue meeting and a confidant who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed Israeli media reports that they were weighing the prospect of a joint election run. A Livni aide also confirmed these talks took place.

A spokesman for Olmert said the meeting had a “positive atmosphere.”

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Both Livni and Olmert are considering a return to politics. Olmert does not plan to make a final decision on whether to run until after he returns from a trip abroad on November 15. Sources close to Livni said she is likely to announce her plans before that date.

It was not clear whether the pair would join one of Israel's center or left-leaning parties, or form their own.

On Sunday, Linvi called for a political revolution in the government and asserted these changes can only be achieved by a unified bloc and a collaborative decision about a candidate to head the government.

Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid both hinted on Saturday night they would be willing to run with Linvi, in the hopes of forming a Center-Left bloc to counter Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's recently merged party Likud-Beytenu.

On Wednesday, a poll commissioned by Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud), who is considering forming a new political party after announcing he is taking a break from politics two weeks ago, showed he could get 20 seats on his own, or 27 if he runs with Livni.

Olmert, a centrist, was forced to quit as prime minister in 2008 over corruption charges of which he was largely acquitted.

Were he to make a comeback, he is seen as possibly the most likely candidate to beat Netanyahu, the right-wing leader of recently merged Likud-Beytenu party, who polls now predict will win re-election.

Livni, who quit the centrist Kadima party in March after losing Kadima leadership to Shaul Mofaz and headed Middle East peace talks which deadlocked months after Netanyahu took office, is also seen as a strong potential contender for Israel's January 22 race.

Olmert and Livni once headed the centrist Kadima party, whose popularity has nosedived under their successor, former general Mofaz.

Founded by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, the party is now predicted to win only a handful of seats in parliament in the coming election, latest surveys show.

But Olmert and Livni may seek to tap into dissatisfaction among moderates in Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party over Netanyahu's union this week with Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu.

Despite the critics, the latest polls show Netanyahu winning as many as 42 seats in Israel's 120-member parliament which would assure him of heading the country's next coalition government.

Ben Hartman, Lahav Harkov and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.

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