Reporter's Notebook: Livin' it up with Livni

Kadima PM candidate boogies her way through the Haoman 17 nightclub in south Tel Aviv.

elections2009_248 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Trying to shake her perceived "ice-queen" image - literally - to appeal to young voters, Foreign Minister and Kadima prime ministerial candidate Tzipi Livni boogied and shimmied her way through hundreds of people at the trendy Haoman 17 nightclub in south Tel Aviv late Tuesday night. Wearing tight jeans, a white T-shirt and jacket, Livni, 50, entered the packed nightclub, waded through the crowd and made her way to the DJ station, where she made a quick speech, put on headphones and dedicated Mashina's "Ein Makom Acher" (No Other Place) to those gathered, saying they would be the ones to bring change to the country. The party started early, at 9 p.m.. Usually, not even the bar staff are at Haoman 17 before 11. Livni arrived at 10:30, moved through the club, played a short DJ set, danced on stage and left. The nightclub visit, organized by young Kadima MKs and activists, was the normally aloof Livni's latest attempt to capture public attention after last week playing the gender card by accusing her opponents of being chauvinistic. She was also profiled on the cover of the country's most widely read women's magazine, La'isha. While meticulously planned, organizers seemed to have overlooked the fact that at least several dozen of the people brought in for the party were under age, and some were drinking - which is illegal. There were also many people smoking inside the club, which is also illegal. By the time Livni made her entrance the nightclub was packed with what looked like well over a thousand people - possibly violating the legal occupancy limit. Kadima organizers employed 10 party promoters to bring in people for the event from across the country. There were three busloads of young people from Ashdod and Ashkelon (where a Grad rocket had hit earlier in the day), and a bus from Migdal Ha'emek. There were many young Russian immigrants in the crowd, further evidence that Kadima, like Labor and the Likud, is focusing on the vote from that sector. The "nightclub rally" was advertised on Facebook as "The Last Chance Party: Youngsters for Clean Politics." Two youths from Modi'in and Holon came because, they said, it was a chance to get into Haoman 17 without a cover charge (which can sometimes reach NIS 140). "I'm still not sure whom I'm going to vote for, but I'm leaning toward Livni because the other two candidates have both been prime ministers and failed," one of them said. As the nightclub filled up with people, more and more Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) guards also arrived, some in uniform and others undercover, occasionally talking into little microphones in their sleeves. If there were this many guards during a normal night at any of Tel Aviv's mega clubs there probably wouldn't be so many of the stabbings, shootings and firebombing that take place almost every weekend. Surrounded by guards, Livni made her entrance to a boosted-up hard techno version of Livni Boy's "Tzipi, You're what I wanted." Looking more like a celebrity or a nightclub owner, Livni, surrounded tightly by her guards, waded through the throng from one side of the club to the other, kissing and hugging dozens of people. The scene created by the organizers, and crafted from behind the scenes by PR guru Eyal Arad, resembled a post-election victory party for a prime minister rather than a preelection stump at a rented-out nightclub on a Tuesday night by a candidate trailing in the polls by at least four percentage points, with one week to go. Scores of media people were invited, including a large contingent of European press. Livni's tactics of focusing on the women's and youth vote seem to be paying off, as the latest polls indicate a narrowing of the gap between Kadima and the Likud. This momentum away from the Likud could also be ascribed to the continued rise of Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party. Livni may also have been trying to take the spotlight off rising star Lieberman, who happens to be a former nightclub bouncer from Moldova. A 19-year-old soldier and first-time voter said at Haoman that she was voting for Livni because she was a woman, and because of Livni's stated aim to bring back kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. Joining Livni at the party were young MKs Yohanan Plessner and Yoel Hasson, as well as veteran ministers Ronnie Bar-On and Ze'ev Boim. At one point, the head of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, got on stage and danced a little hesitantly. He needed a few more beers, he said, before he could really cut loose.