Olmert’s break with Livni further fragments Israel’s center-left opposition


While Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu contemplates the rise of his former protégé-turned-rival Naftali Bennett, leader of the surging conservative Bayit Yehudi (הבית היהודי, ‘The Jewish Home’), he’s probably still not too worried about his chances to return as Israeli prime minister after January 22’s elections to the Knesset (הכנסת), Israel’s 120-seat unicameral parliament.ISrel Flag Icon

That’s because he’ll have his pick of any number of orthodox or conservative parties to bolster his own conservative Likud (הַלִּכּוּד‎, ‘The Consolidation’), which — for the purposes of this month’s election, at least — has partnered with the secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu (ישראל ביתנו‎, ‘Israel is Our Home’) of former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who recently resigned in light of an indictment on charges of breach of public trust.

But, even more, it’s also because the remaining center-left opposition to Netanyahu is horribly fractured in at least five different groups:

  • the centrist Kadima (קדימה, ‘Forward’) of former prime minister Ehud Olmert;
  • Hatnuah (התנועה, ‘The Movement’), a new party formed by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who lost the Kadima leadership in March 2012;
  • the longtime center-left Labor (מפלגת העבודה הישראלית) party, led by the more leftist Shelly Yacimovich since 2011;
  • Yesh Atid (יש עתיד, ‘There is a Future’), a vaguely reformist center-left party formed this year by former television news anchor Yair Lapid; and
  • Meretz (מרצ, ‘Energy’), Israel’s far-left, social-democratic Zionist party.

Together, conceivably, they could have united to form an anti-Netanyahu coalition.  In the span of one week, as it turns out, Livni has gone from public musing about joining Netanyahu’s next coalition to calling for one last attempt, with 18 days to go until the election, at a united front.  Livni’s tenure as foreign minister featured lengthy negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, though Netanyahu has reassured Likud colleagues that Livni won’t serve as foreign minister, even if Lieberman remains too beleaguered by legal problems to resume his role.

With the exception of Labor, which has pushed a much more economically liberal platform than the other centrist parties, it’s hard to believe that the failure of the center-left has more to do with arrogant personalities than it does with real ideological differences.

At the heart of the center-left’s dilemma is the disintegration of Kadima, the party established by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2005 to give him the political space necessary to begin dismantling Israeli settlements in the West Bank and engage the Palestinian Authority in serious peace talks.  At the time, Kadima drew support from prominent Likud members as well as from senior Labor figures as well, including, notably, Shimon Peres, who now serves as Israel’s president.

But Kadima’s power started leaking away with the stroke in January 2006 that incapacitated Sharon by leaving him in a permanent coma.

His successor as prime minister, Ehud Olmert (pictured above, with Livni), left office in 2009 under a cloud of scandal and although he was largely acquitted of corruption charges earlier this year, state prosecutors are appealing the acquittal, so Olmert’s not completely out of legal trouble.

In the previous 2009 Knesset elections, Livni, who served as deputy prime minister to Olmert as well as foreign minister, led Kadima admirably enough, winning the highest number of seats in the Knesset (28 to Likud’s 27).  But Netanyahu ultimately formed a governing coalition with other allies (including Labor which, at the time, was led by former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak).  Livni refused to join that coalition, and so Kadima went into opposition.

Fast forward to early 2012.  Kadima MKs, disgruntled with Livni’s performance, replaced her as leader with Shaul Mofaz, who served as Sharon’s defense minster earlier last decade.  Mofaz, after initially refusing to join Netanyahu’s coalition, promptly did so in May, only to leave the coalition in August over disagreements over the Tal Law.  Mofaz, in making such a hash of coalition politics, managed to worsen Kadima’s already precarious electoral position.

Livni promptly resigned from the Knesset in a bit of a huff, returning to politics only last month when she formed Hatnuah, which in English is literally known as ‘The Tzipi Livni Party.’  Ideologically speaking, it’s difficult to see much daylight between her views and  Kadima’s views or even Lapid’s views.

While Olmert’s legal troubles may have stopped him from running in this month’s elections himself, it certainly hasn’t stopped him from making mischief — earlier this week, he in no uncertain terms urged Israeli voters to support Kadima rather than his one-time deputy Livni:

Speaking at an event for Kadima mayors in Ramat Gan, Olmert sang the praises of current Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz and mocked The Tzipi Livni Party’s slogan.

“I hear that the hope will vanquish the fear,” Olmert said. “That is indeed a nice slogan, and I am not against slogans. But what is the practical content behind it? If there is anyone who has already proven that he knows how to defeat fear in the streets and provide security and hope to the citizens of Israel, it is the man who, as IDF chief of staff, commanded Operation Defensive Shield and defeated the second intifada.”

Olmert was even harsher at an event in late December:

“She lost the party leadership by  a huge margin, because when she headed the party its members lost trust in her,” Olmert said.

“That is the truth. She did not succeed as head of the opposition.”

The change of heart is fascinating, given that just two months earlier, the two former Kadima leaders seemed much more in concert about uniting against Netanyahu, releasing a joint statement on October 31 indicating they would both return to politics as a united force.

Clearly, no longer. Continue reading Olmert’s break with Livni further fragments Israel’s center-left opposition

In Depth: Israel

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Israel voters go to the polls on January 22, 2013 to select 120 members of the Knesset, Israel’s 120-member unicameral parliament.ISrel Flag Icon

Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to return as prime minister, but his Likud (הַלִּכּוּד‎, ‘The Consolidation’), merged with the secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu (ישראל ביתנו‎, ‘Israel is Our Home’) is unlikely to win a majority of the seats, and will likely have to form a coalition with any number of centrist, center-left, or right-wing parties.

Please find below Suffragio‘s posts covering Israeli politics:

Twelve lessons to draw from Netanyahu’s new Israeli cabinet government
March 19, 2013

Four things that the Netanyahu-Livni deal tells us about Israel’s next government
February 21, 2013

Provisional Israeli election results show a 60-60 split
January 23, 2013

Winners and losers in today’s Israeli election
January 22, 2013

Who is Yair Lapid?
January 22, 2013

Israel’s untouchable parties: Israeli-Arab politics in a Jewish state
January 22, 2013

A guide to the five likeliest Netanyahu-led governing coalitions for Israel
January 21, 2013

The Netanyahu-Bennett relationship will define the next Israeli government
January 19, 2013

Fiscal, budget issues loom large in Israeli election
January 18, 2013

The Lebanonization of Israeli politics and next week’s Knesset elections
January 16, 2013

Hagel’s Defense nomination may be about Israel — but not in the way you think
January 7, 2013

Olmert’s break with Livni further fragments Israel’s center-left opposition
January 4, 2013

Lieberman resignation complicates Netanyahu coalition’s election chances
December 14, 2012

What Barak’s apparent departure means for Israeli politics
November 28, 2012

Today’s attack in Gaza and its effect on Israeli and Middle Eastern politics
November 14, 2012

Netanyahu announces early elections in Israel
October 10, 2012

Picture of the Day: Bibi goes to the United Nations
September 27, 2012

Kadima leaves Israeli grand coalition over national service Tal Law proposal
July 17, 2012

Netanyahu’s new broad unity coalition a week later: winners and losers
May 17, 2012

Bibi and the duck
March 7, 2012

* * * * *

Photo credit to Lee M. Whitman — Haifa, 2012. 

Suffragio has been nominated as 2013’s ‘Most Promising New Blog’

It’s somewhat of a New Year’s treat to have been nominated for the 2013 Online Achievement in International Studies awards over at The Duck of Minerva, a top academic international studies blogging forum.

Suffragio has been nominated for 2013’s ‘Most Promising New Blog,’ which is an incredible honor, given that Suffragio remains a one-man show for someone whose day job is outside international affairs.  So while my blog has always been a work of love rather than my primary occupation, it’s really great to see that many of my readers enjoy and value Suffragio‘s analysis of world politics.

And it’s been a lot of fun reading the other blogs up for various awards, many of which I was already familiar and some of which are new to me.

So thank you!

A little background from Duck of Minerva:

The 2013 Most Promising New Blog (Group or Individual) OAIS prize will be awarded to blog, founded in 2011 or 2012, that displays the most promise for ongoing contribution to the intellectual vibrancy of the international-studies blogging community…. Finalists will be selected by popular vote, which will run from 5 January-31 January 2013. We will conduct the vote via online survey. In order to register as a voter, email us.

So I’m not entirely sure who is eligible to register as a voter, but if you’re a regular reader and you want to help Suffragio obtain a little positive notoriety, by all means, please register and vote for Suffragio before January 31!

In the meanwhile, for anyone who has come to my blog via Duck of Minerva, see some of the top Suffragio posts from the past year below the jump.

Thanks again! Continue reading Suffragio has been nominated as 2013’s ‘Most Promising New Blog’

First Past the Post: January 4

East and South Asia

Police have filed charges in the horrific Delhi gang rape (now murder) that has much of India in protest.

A senior Pakistani militant leader, Mullah Nazir, has been killed by a U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan.

Considering whether Shinzō Abe’s government is pursuing economic stimulus or stealth nationalization.

Jason Mikian in Foreign Policy has a fascinating story on the role of Surat, a city in Gujarat, on the world diamond trade.

More political wrangling in Indonesia for the support of Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

The governing Awami League narrowly leads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Former Hong Kong chief executive Henry Tang is calling for a freely democratic election in 2017.

Beijing and Shanghai are offering 72-hour visa-free stay policies.

North America

Alejandro García Padilla has been inaugurated as Puerto Rico’s new governor.

U.S. congressman John Boehner gets a boost with his reelection as speaker to the U.S. House of Representatives.  Long live the Merlot revolution.

Latin America / Caribbean

Hugo Chávez is now facing respiratory failure following his surgery in Cuba.

Francisco Toro argues that the Cubans have become the key power player in the drama over Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and any possible succession.

Rafael Correa has an overwhelming lead for reelection with 61%, followed by banker Guillermo Lasso with just 11%.

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto will move forward with fiscal and energy reforms in 2013.  [Spanish]

Panamá’s worsening crisis over president Ricardo Martinelli’s alleged corruption. [Spanish]

Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner gets pushback against her incendiary letter to the United Kingdom regarding the Falkland Islands.


Talks between Joseph Kabila’s government and the M23 rebels are on again in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, if hanging by a thread.

Why development doesn’t automatically follow growth in Africa.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan backs away from 2015 reelection talk.

The ANC hopes to clean up Jacob Zuma’s reputation in advance of 2014 elections.


Russian president Vladimir Putin has changed the election system for Russia’s Duma from 100% proportional representation to 50% PR and 50% single-member districts in hopes of boosting his United Russia (Еди́ная Росси́я) party.

Comrade Depardieu?  More from Le Figaro. [French]

A to-do list for German chancellor Angela Merkel in 2013.

Portuguese president Cavaco Silva questions whether parts of Portugal’s ‘troika’-initiated austerity program are constitutional.

Middle East

One of the three leaders of Orthodox Jewish party Shas calls for a long-term peace deal with the Palestinians and withdrawal from the West Bank.

Lebanon’s governing cabinet proceeds with a plan for coping with increasing numbers of Syrian refugees.

Egypt faces its own austerity amid a crippled economic climate.

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan says the era of political violence in Turkey is over.


The Economist charts the top 10 countries forecast to grow in 2013 and the bottom 10 forecast to shrink in 2013.  Iraq, Timor-Leste and Mongolia are among the winners. Hint: the losers are 80% European.