Analysis: Posing for photos – or for President Reuven Rivlin?

Herzog and Livni are positioning themselves to pick up votes from those in the Center – and for the president to select them to form the government.

Labor Party chief Isaac Herzog (L) and Hatnua chair Tzipi Livni announce their political alliance in Tel Aviv  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Labor Party chief Isaac Herzog (L) and Hatnua chair Tzipi Livni announce their political alliance in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When Labor leader Isaac Herzog and his new recruit, Hatnua head Tzipi Livni, posed for the cameras at their Tel Aviv press conference Wednesday night, they had many different viewers in mind who they hoped were watching on TV.
They wanted to win the support of self-declared centrist voters, who voted for Yesh Atid or Likud last time. Many centrist Likud voters feel uncomfortable with the ongoing TeaPartyization of the party, which is seen as repeating Republican mistakes by moving too far to the Right.
Polls found that Herzog was perceived as too leftwing for such centrists, but they felt more comfortable voting Labor with the addition of Livni, whose assets include her right-wing revisionist background and her late Likud MK father, even though her views have changed.
To that end, a new name will be chosen for the joint list and both Herzog and Livni’s names will be on the ballot on March 17.
They also wanted to appeal to left-wing voters, many of whom had given up hope of the Left ever taking power again.
In the past, those voters had either stayed home, voted for fad parties as protest votes, or cast ballots for Meretz, a party that has little chance of ever being part of any coalition. Herzog’s reputation and family background will help Livni win their support.
Many justifiably believe Herzog overpaid for Livni when he promised her a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office if they win.
After all, Livni might not have even passed the electoral threshold had she run on her own.
But it was important for Herzog to win the support of Livni, the last Center-Left leader to win the most votes in an Israeli election in 2009.
Her backing crowns Herzog as the undisputed leader of the Center-Left today, recognition he required to win wavering Leftist voters.
The final target of the press conference was President Reuven Rivlin, who with all due respect to the voters, is the one who will decide who the next prime minister will be.
Rivlin’s job is to determine who can form the most stable government.
By showing he can make compromises and work together with Livni, Herzog is no doubt impressing the man who makes the decisions.
But he also took a risk.
Promising Livni the premiership may have harmed Herzog’s chances of getting haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties to recommend to Rivlin that he form the government.
Livni stressed Thursday that she never really considered joining Yesh Atid. She said she did not try to lead Yair Lapid on or to bargain between Herzog and him.
But maybe history would have been different had Lapid not canceled his speech at the Saban Forum in Washington.
He did not go because of the political crisis, among other reasons.
Instead Herzog and Livni went together, took the same plane, and spent hours talking at Washington’s Willard Hotel.
Haim Saban has not lived in Israel for decades, but his forum played a role in uniting the Israeli Center-Left that he supports.
He was undoubtedly satisfied if – in his Malibu mansion – he watched the press conference, too.