Livni fights to take MKs, NIS 9 million from Kadima

Former FM announces political comeback, new party; Kadima unites to stop ex-leader’s return.

TZIPI LIVNI announces the formation of her new party 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
TZIPI LIVNI announces the formation of her new party 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni announced her political comeback on Tuesday and immediately began efforts to split her former party and force it to give her more than NIS 9 million in party funding.
At a Tel Aviv press conference, she revealed that her party would be called “The Movement Led by Tzipi Livni” in Hebrew, and her associates asked that it be called “The Tzipi Livni Party” in English. In steps rare for press conferences, she filled the room with political activists to applaud her answers and took questions only from broadcast media.
Following the press conference, Livni got six political allies in Kadima to sign forms committing to leave for her party: MKs Shlomo Molla, Yoel Hasson, Majallie Whbee, Rachel Adatto, Robert Tibayev and Orit Zuaretz.
While the six are legally permitted to leave Kadima on their own, Livni can only ask the Knesset House Committee for the NIS 1.3m. in party funding that each MK is worth – 60 percent of which is given in a lump sum as a down payment – if she can find a seventh MK willing to jump ship.
Time allotted for election commercials on television and radio is also determined by how many MKs parties have.
Livni’s allies asked Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin on Monday to convene the committee Wednesday to approve the split. But when they failed to obtain the support of a seventh MK, the meeting was canceled.
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz worked hard Tuesday to persuade his MKs not to defect to the party being formed by Livni, whom he defeated by a landslide eight months ago in the party’s leadership race.
Livni reached out to almost every Kadima MK, regardless of their ideology and past history.
The Kadima faction will convene Wednesday night for a meeting that is expected to turn into a festival of unity against Livni.
“Livni has surpassed every limit of chutzpa,” Kadima MK Shai Hermesh said. “We will tear her apart. We will make sure the public knows she cannot even run a corner store. We won’t let her raid our party’s coffers after she left it NIS 34m. in debt.”
But Molla not only expressed confidence that a seventh MK willing to jump ship would be found, but also boasted that “we will be able to take as many Kadima MKs as we want.”
He noted that polls showed Kadima would not pass the electoral threshold.
In the press conference, Livni expressed confidence that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could be beaten in the January 22 election if parties on the Center-Left were willing to join forces. She blamed Netanyahu for the stalemate in the peace process with the Palestinians that began when US President Barack Obama was elected in 2008.
“A government that initially refused to say that there will be two states is getting one at the United Nations and another led by Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” she said.
Livni met Monday night with former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who told her that he would not stand in the way of her comeback.
But he said he would not decide whether to run until just before next Thursday’s deadline for parties to submit their lists to the central election committee.
As expected, Livni did not present her candidates for the Knesset at the press conference.
Her associates said she would consider any candidate who could help her build the Center-Left bloc.
Labor Party activists protested outside the press conference, accusing Livni of splitting the Left to the benefit of Netanyahu. She responded that they should be protesting outside the headquarters of the Likud.
“The fact that the public doesn’t know whom to vote for is because there is no alternative for prime minister,” she said. “My joining politics expands the bloc. I am giving an option to those who said they would stay home on election day. Obligation to a bloc is not based on what party politicians join now, but whether after the election, they will recommend to the president that a candidate from the bloc form the government.”
The Labor Party called her decision a “bitter mistake,” adding that “she is creating a party for the refugees of refugees, and is making Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman smile. Instead of focusing on [the Likud’s] ultra-extreme party list, we are now dealing with the formation of new parties in the Center.”
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Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich slammed Livni at a Tel Aviv press conference on Tuesday evening, saying, “A worthy leader knows how to make decisions and doesn’t change their agenda every minute.”
She added that the Center should be uniting to topple Netanyahu rather than forming new parties and further splintering.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said Livni was acting out of ego, and Meretz Party chairwoman Zehava Gal-On denounced her as a warmonger.
The Likud responded harshly to Livni’s announcement, describing her as nationally irresponsible and politically incomprehensible.
“Tzipi Livni supported the disengagement and brought Hamas to Gaza. Now she is working vigorously to bring Hamas to Judea and Samaria,” a party spokesman said, accusing her of projecting weakness to Israel’s enemies.