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New Coalition Or Early Election?

Tzipi Livni: 'I will try to form a new coalition as quickly as possible'

Barak source: 'Labor should not enter a Livni coalition but opt for an early election'

Shas: 'No negotiations on Jerusalem and bigger child allowances, otherwise we will not join a Livni coalition'

Tzipi Livni (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Tzipi Livni has barely won the leadership race in Israel's ruling Kadima party weakening her chances of swiftly forming a new coalition government to replace the current cabinet headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Her potential partners Labor and Shas are talking tough. IsraCast forecasts that although this may be political posturing before the coalition negotiations, Livni may face a difficult task in forming a new coalition government.

Israelis went to sleep with the polls predicting that Tzipi Livni had trounced Shaul Mofaz by more than 10 percent- but when they awakened next morning, they were surprised to hear that Livni had won a narrow victory. Just 431 Kadima voters had voted for Livni more than Mofaz; that's just one percent of the 40,000 Kadima members who cast their ballots for their new party leader to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In fact, Mofaz had even considered appealing the outcome before finally telephoning his congratulations to Livni. Such a slim margin will mean that Livini will not be the all powerful Kadimah leader.

Shaul Mofaz

Her narrow victory will now impact on her upcoming coalition negotiations to form a new government. Her political status has been weakened and this will encourage her current coalition partners of Labor and Shas to up their demands. If Livni had won a decisive victory, she could have parlayed it into risking an early election with the prospect of even defeating Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu.

But now, a confidant of Labor party leader Ehud Barak is already talking tough to Livni and calling for an early election. Cabinet minister Shalom Simchon contended that it was out of the question that a small number of Kadimah members will determine who will be the next Prime Minister. Barak, by the way, believes the Iranian issue would be the key issue in an early election and he could even defeat Livni and Netanyahu on the security question. In Labor, there is a growing school of thought that the party should go to the opposition, if it ever wants to return to the prime ministers office. The other current coalition partner Shas is also making its demands. Party leader Eli Ishai has declared that his party has two conditions for joining a Livni coalition - no political negotiations on Jerusalem and increased child allowances which were slashed by Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu when he served as finance minister. Otherwise, Shas warns that it will opt for an early election.

Tzipi Livni & Ehud Olmert (Photo: Amit Shabi)

On the other hand, the Iranian nuclear threat and the world financial crisis are two very persuasive arguments for government stability and continuing the current coalition. By law, an early election can only be held ninety days after the decision and with the subsequent negotiations on a new coalition it could take another five months or so before a new government took office. In the meantime, Ehud Olmert could carry on as Prime Minister, the head of a caretaker government, if he did not choose to resign. Olmert, a bitter rival of Livni, telephoned his congratulations saying he would now resign as party leader but he has made no mention of resigning as Prime Minister before a new coalition is formed. Channel One television has reported that Olmert plans on staying on as Prime Minister as long as he can. It will be interesting to see if Kadimah rallies around Livni and demands that Olmert step down and allows the new party leader to enter the PM's office.

Golda Meir

So there are still many open questions that Tzipi Livni will have to resolve before she takes over as prime minister, the first woman to do so in Israeli politics since the late Golda Meir. Livni will need all of Golda's political prowess and tenacity, if she is to succeed.

Sarah Livni (1922-2007)

Sarah Livni

Sarah Livni, mother of Tzipi Livni, was a member of the Irgun, a pre-state paramilitary organization, and was arrested by the British and imprisoned in Bethlehem.

Sarah Livni was known as 'Little Sarah' during her Irgun days, and the famous song 'Alei Barikadot' begins with these words. You can listen to the original recording of the song, which was written by Michael Ashbel, another member of the Irgun. Please, do not make illegal copies of the song.

Sarah married Eitan, a fellow Irgun member, one day after Israel declared independence. The two were the first to be married in the modern state of Israel. Eitan Livni later joined the Likud and served as a Member of Knesset.

Eitan Livni


David Essing

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