(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Tzipi Livni will return to the post of opposition leader in the Knesset, which she held from 2009 to 2012, according to an agreement she reached Monday with Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay.
In return for receiving the post, Livni agreed that her Hatnua Party would run in the next election with Gabbay’s Labor and try to build a wider bloc of Center-Left parties. Livni had said openly that had she not received the post, the Zionist Union would have broken up.
“We will build the Zionist Union into a bloc that will replace the current government and work for the citizens,” Gabbay and Livni said in a joint statement.
Livni will replace Isaac Herzog, who will become chairman of the Jewish Agency on August 1. But it is unclear how long she will remain in the post, because it is possible that the Knesset will vote to disperse itself and initiate early elections immediately when its summer recess ends October 14.
“This is a key step toward replacing the government,” Gabbay said at a hastily called Tel Aviv press conference. “The Zionist Union is an asset that must be further developed.”
Livni, who repeatedly referred to Gabbay as her candidate for prime minister at the press conference, said that they had decided to put many differences aside in order to run together in what she called “a win-win situation.” She promised an “uncompromising struggle by the opposition, without stuttering.”
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich, who was also seen as a candidate for opposition leader, declined the post and decided to remain the head of the Knesset’s State Control Committee.
The head of the opposition speaks after the prime minister in state ceremonies and receives a larger office and staff in the Knesset, as well as bodyguards. She meets with visiting world leaders and dignitaries who come on state visits.
Hatnua MK Yoel Hasson’s spokeswoman said he would remain head of the Zionist Union faction in the Knesset, despite speculation it would go to an MK from Labor. But Gabbay’s spokeswoman said the matter remained undecided.
Hatnua will receive the second, 12th, 16th and 21st slots on the joint list.
Herzog said Livni was the most fitting candidate for the post and said he had encouraged Gabbay and Livni to keep the Zionist Union together.
Every MK in the Zionist Union released a statement praising Livni. MK Stav Shaffir summarized Livni’s appointment with two words: “Yalla balagan!” which translates roughly into “let’s go immediately and make a mess.”
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