Livni to wait until dust settles before deciding on primary

Likud move puts pressure for leadership race in Kadima.

MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni does not intend to rush to make a decision on whether to initiate a leadership race in her party after the Likud set its primary for January 31, sources close to Livni said Tuesday.
Livni missed the hullabaloo in the Knesset on Monday over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s announcement about advancing the Likud race, because she was on her way back from Washington, where she spoke at the Saban Forum.
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Since her return, she has been meeting with Kadima MKs one-by-one to seek their advice. So far, she heard from MKs who have said that Kadima cannot be the only party to not hold its leadership race and others who have said it would look wrong to make a decision based on Netanyahu’s move.
“Bibi makes his decisions according to his own interests and it shouldn’t impact other parties,” a Livni adviser said. “We have to decide whether to dance to the Likud’s fiddle.”
Livni’s associates said she would wait until “the dust settles” before deciding, while watching whether Netanyahu’s move creates momentum for advancing a general election. She will also consider whether holding a Kadima leadership primary could result in a split in the party after the race.
Just last week, Livni scored a big political victory when she withstood a rebellion in her faction and passed a proposal to delay discussions about holding a new leadership race until at least May.
But sources in Kadima who support Livni said that vote was now “irrelevant” following Netanyahu’s decision to advance his party’s primary.
MKs Shaul Mofaz and Avi Dichter, who ran against Livni in 2008, said that after Labor elected a leader in September, Likud will next month, and Meretz in February, Kadima must elect its candidate for prime minister by March.
“The opening shot of the election has been fired,” Shaul Mofaz told reporters at the Knesset. “In the army, it is said that those who want peace must prepare for war, and I say that those who want to topple the government and present an alternative must understand that, to be ready, we must hold primaries.”
Regarding Livni’s attempt to avoid initiating a leadership race, Mofaz predicted that “even those holding onto power with their last legs will eventually crack.”
Dichter told Israel Radio that he asked Livni a year-and-a-half ago to hold primaries at the beginning of 2011 and he wished she would have agreed. He predicted that enough support for advancing the primary could be found in the Kadima faction.
“I believe there will be new deliberations on the matter,” he said. “There are enough sane MKs in Kadima who see what’s happening in the other parties and that it requires that Kadima not be left behind.”
Kadima officials denied a report in Yediot Aharonot that efforts were underway again to try to split the faction by getting seven MKs to defect to Likud.
Netanyahu has tried unsuccessfully to split Kadima. He could use the current anger at Livni in Kadima to try the move again. But Kadima MKs involved in past efforts to split the party said they preferred to wait and see whether their party would have a new leader after the Kadima primary.