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Analysis: Benefits bequeathed to Bibi
By GIL HOFFMAN
01/06/2013
Netanyahu should have sent flowers over the weekend to former foreign minister Tzipi Livni - for the second time.
 
For the second time, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should have sent flowers over the weekend to former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

The first time Netanyahu should have given Livni roses was when she formed a new party rather than accept an offer to run in second place on the Labor list. Had she joined the largest party on the Center-Left when the Likud went down in the polls, it is possible that the race would have become close.

But instead Livni formed a fourth Center-Left party, split the anti-Netanyahu vote, and allowed the prime minister to rest easy, knowing that he will be on his way to another term when Israelis go to the polls on January 22.

Now Livni helped Netanyahu immensely again when she called for Labor and Yesh Atid to join forces in one Knesset faction following the election. Her intentions might have been good. It is a stretch, but uniting could result in President Shimon Peres asking the leader of the Center-Left (whoever that may be) to form the next government.

But Livni should have known that there was no way Yesh Atid would join her maneuver and that Yair Lapid is wisely aiming to make the next Netanyahu government as moderate as possible. It should have been clear to her that Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich cannot take back her promise not to be part of a coalition formed by Likud Beytenu, even if Livni’s and Lapid’s parties joined with her.

It is too late for a mega-party on the Left to be formed. But it is not too late to scare right-wing voters, which was the main result of Livni’s maneuver.

Netanyahu had been saying for weeks that votes for the Likud’s satellite parties would weaken him. But the more he spoke, the more people switched allegiances from Likud Beytenu to Bayit Yehudi and Shas.

That pattern changed Friday, thanks to Livni. Suddenly, it became realistic that the Prime Minister’s Office was not guaranteed to remain in Netanyahu’s hands.

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It is almost never smart for the prime minister of Israel to rush to give interviews to react to news developments. It certainly was not a good idea for Netanyahu to meet with the three TV channels last month to attack Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett.

But Sunday was an exception. It was wise of Netanyahu to make sure everyone knew that the Center-Left was ganging up on him.

He finally got across his message that voting for a party further to the Right would weaken him rather than strengthen him.

And for that Netanyahu has to thank Livni, whose political maneuvers continue to weaken the Center- Left while ironically helping him, a man she so clearly detests.
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