Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 63, No. 7, Ed. 1 Thursday, February 12, 2009 Page: 2 of 32
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2 I February 12,2009
ISRAEL VOTES 2009
TEXAS JEWISH POST & SINCE 1947
indication or Livni in
surprise election victory
By JTA Staff
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Four months
ago, shortly after appearing to make
it to the top of the Israeli political
pyramid, Tzipi Livni stumbled.
Ehud Olmert had resigned as
prime minister and Livni had won
the Kadima primary election, but
she was having trouble assembling a
coalition government. Unable to get
a key Kadima coalition member, the
Shas Party, to stay in the government,
Livni was forced to call for new gen-
On Tuesday, Livni celebrated her
Scoring a come-from-behind vic-
tory at the ballot box, Livni edged Li-
kud's Benjamin Netanyahu, who had
been the front-runner for nearly the
It means a great de§l
entire race, to win an estimated 29 or
30 seats for Kadima, according to Is-
raeli exit polls.
Now with a national mandate,
the question Livni faces is whether
she can leverage her new political
standing to assemble a coalition gov-
ernment quickly. With Israel's right
wing also having scored significant
electoral gains Tuesday, the task will
not be easy.
Livni's victory was aided by the
splintering of the right-wing vote.
Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beit-
einu drew key votes from Netanyahu
on the right even as the right-wing
Knesset mandate soared. Likud grew
to an estimated 27 or 28 seats from
12, and Yisrael Beiteinu increased its
share to 14 or 15 seats from 11. Labor
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fell to 13 seats from 18.
Meanwhile Kadima, which had 29
seats before the election, held steady.
Kadima's lead means Livni, cur-
rently the foreign minister, will have
the first shot at assembling the mini-
mum 61-seat majority needed to
govern. If she fails to put together a
coalition, Netanyahu would have his
Livni based her campaign on
three central elements: establishing
her credentials as a national leader;
attacking Netanyahu as a prime min-
ister who had failed once and would
fail again for the same reasons; and
presenting her policies as the best
prescription for Israel's long-term
She described the election as being
about whether or not Israel should go
for peace, casting Tuesdays vote as
a choice between hope and fear and
emphasizing that negotiations on a
final-status peace deal with the Pal-
estinians must continue.
"Israel must, as she has in the past,
combine military might with diplo-
matic initiative," Livni said last week
at the Herzliya Conference, an an-
nual summit on Israeli state and se-
curity. He who thinks Israel can have
"security without some kind of peace
process is fooling himself, fooling the
public and doesn't understand the
world we live in."
She said, "I believe that standing
on the sidelines and not doing any-
thing is not an option, it's a bad op-
tion. And if we don't put a plan in He-
brew on the table, we will be forced
to accept a plan in Arabic, French or
English. And all these plans never
will reflect Israel's interests as Israel
Livni started her campaign many
months ago as Mrs. Clean, when
government corruption was high on
Photo: Brian Hendler
Tzipi Livni, seen at
the Foreign Minis-
try in Jerusalem on
Jan. 29, will have
the chance to as-
semble a govern
ment, exit polls
the national agenda and while Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert and other
leading politicians were embroiled in
scandal. Livni promised politics with -
out corruption or coalition wheeling
and dealing, and with a new, more
functional system of government.
But the 22-day military operation
in Gaza and the urgency of Israel's
relationship with the Palestinians
made the issue of political corruption
virtually irrelevant in the abbreviated
campaign, which went into full gear
only once the fighting in Gaza ended
Livni shifted her focus to the need
to press ahead on Israeli-Palestinian
peacemaking and cast her main rival,
Netanyahu, as on a likely collision
course with the Obama administra-
tion in Washington.
For his part, Netanyahu tried to
portray Livni as lacking the experi-
ence and gravitas necessary to be
"Tzipi Livni? It's too big for her,"
Likud's campaign poster said.
Livni, who normally insists on
keeping her public persona and pri-
vate life separate, opened up a bit on
the campaign trail, talking about the
home in which she grew up.
Both her parents were members
of the underground Irgun, which
fought British forces in pre-state Pal-
estine. Her father, Eitan, was a com-
mander and later a Likud Knesset
member. Her mother, Sara, also was
a well-known Irgun fighter who in-
spired one of the militia's fight songs,
"Up to the Barricades."
Livni herself once opposed any
notion of trading land for peace. But
not unlike other prominent sons and
daughters of the founding Likud
elite, including Olmert, Livni gradu-
ally changed her position to support
the idea of territorial compromise.
A former lawyer, Livni started her
professional career as a Mossad agent.
Since her election to the Knesset on
the Likud list in 1999, Livni, under
the tutelage of mentor Ariel Sharon,
enjoyed what often is referred to in Is-
rael as a "meteoric" rise. She has held
various political offices, serving as
the minister of regional cooperation,
immigrant absorption, justice, hous-
ing and infrastructure, and most re-
cently, foreign minister.
With her reputation for straight
talk, intelligence and political mod-
eration, Livni has managed to capture
something of the popular imagina-
tion in an Israel weary of corruption
and grandstanding among its politi-
But it appeared to be Israelis'
weariness with the politicians of the
past — specifically with the ex-prime
minister Netanyahu — that drew
crucial support away from Netanya-
hu in the final days of the race, giving
Lieberman's party a boost and hand-
ing the victory to Livni.
JTA managing editor Uriel Heilman, senior
political analyst Leslie Susser and Israel corre-
spondent Dina Kraft contributed to this story.
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Wisch, Rene. Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 63, No. 7, Ed. 1 Thursday, February 12, 2009, newspaper, February 12, 2009; Fort Worth, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth188228/m1/2/: accessed September 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .