Tziporah Malka "Tzipi" Livni (Hebrew: ציפורה מלכה "ציפי"
לבני; pronounced [tsipoˈʁa malˈka ˈtsipi ˈlivni] born
8 July 1958) is a prominent Israeli politician and former Foreign
Minister of Israel.
Widely considered the most powerful woman in
Israel since Golda
Meir, Livni has served in eight different cabinet positions
throughout her career, setting the record for most government roles
held by an Israeli woman. Consequently, she has achieved a number
of milestones in Israeli government, as the first female Vice Prime
Minister, Justice Minister, Agriculture Minister, and Housing
In 2011, she was named one of "150 Women Who Shake the World" by
Newsweek and The Daily Beast. From 2006 to 2008,
ranked Livni on its List of 100 Most Powerful Women three years in
row, while Time included her in its 2007 "Time 100," for
which U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice penned an op-ed. In
Israel, Livni has earned a reputation as an honest politician who
sticks to her principles.
Born to a prominent right-wing, revisionist Zionist family, Livni has
become one of Israel's leading voices in support of a two-state
solution—one that ensures Israel's security and identity as a Jewish
and democratic state.
From 2001 to 2009, Livni served in the cabinets of
Ariel Sharon and
Ehud Olmert, most notably as Israel's Foreign Minister, during which
time she led multiple rounds of peace talks with the Palestinians. In
September 2008, Livni prepared to take office as Prime Minister of
Israel, but the political climate in the country prevented her from
forming a government. The following year, she led her party to win a
plurality of seats in the Knesset, but was again blocked from becoming
prime minister, due to the rightist parties' majority in the Knesset.
Consequently, she served as Leader of the Opposition from 2009, until
her resignation from the
Knesset in 2012.
Later that year, Livni founded a new party, Hatnuah, to compete in
the 2013 elections, after which she was appointed Justice Minister in
the Thirty-third government of Israel, again leading a new round of
Israeli–Palestinian peace talks. In December 2014, a number of
policy disputes within the government led
Benjamin Netanyahu to
dismiss Livni from his cabinet and call new elections. In the 2015
election, Livni joined forces with Labor Party leader
Isaac Herzog to
create the Zionist Union, a unified bloc of their two parties.
On February 11, 2017, it was reported that UN Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres had offered Livni the post of Under-Secretary-General
of the United Nations. Livni would be the first Israeli to serve in
such a senior position at the organization.
1 Early life
2 IDF service and Mossad
3 Education, family, and legal career
4 Political career
4.1 1999–2005: Likud
4.2 2005–2012: Kadima
5 2006–2009: Foreign Minister of Israel
6 2008–2009: Candidate for Prime Minister
Kadima leadership victory
6.2 Forming a government
6.3 2009 elections
7 2009–2012: Leader of the Opposition
7.2 UK arrest warrant
7.3 Leadership defeat and resignation
8 2012–2017: Hatnuah
8.1 2013 elections
8.2 Minister of Justice
8.3 2013–14 Israeli–Palestinian peace talks
9 2014–Present: The Zionist Union
9.1 2015 elections
11 External links
Born in Tel Aviv, Livni is the daughter of
Eitan Livni (born in
Poland) and Sara (Rosenberg), both prominent former
After Israel's independence, Eitan and Sara Livni became the first
couple to marry in the new state. Her father served as the chief
operations officer of the Irgun.
As a child, Livni was a member of the
Betar youth movement and played
basketball for Elitzur Tel Aviv. Growing up in an
by the Labour Party, Livni says she felt marginalized, believing that
the establishment had minimized her parents' contribution to Israel's
founding. Despite the hard-line image of the Irgun, she says her
parents had respect for the Arabs and acted only against the
British army, not civilians.
During the 1984
Likud primaries, her father, who had served in the
Likud as a moderate, did not campaign for a
seat in the Knesset, and urged party members to support a Druze
candidate instead because he thought it important for
Likud to have
IDF service and Mossad
Livni served in the IDF, gaining rank of lieutenant. Livni later
served in the
Mossad during 1980 and 1984, between the ages of 22 and
26. According to an interview in Yediot Aharonot, described in The
Sunday Times, she served in the elite unit responsible for Operation
Wrath of God. She resigned from the IDF in August 1983 to marry
and finish her law studies.
Education, family, and legal career
A graduate of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Law, she has practiced
public and commercial law for over 10 years. Livni resides in Tel
Aviv. She is married to advertising executive Naftali Spitzer, and the
couple have two children, Omri (born 1987) and Yuval (born 1990).
Livni has been a vegetarian since the age of 12. Besides her
native language, Hebrew, Livni also speaks fluent English and French,
having lived in
Paris for a number of years.
Livni's father, Eitan Livni, a
Herut Member of Knesset, died in 1991.
Her mother, Sara, who died in 2007, stood by Livni's decision to leave
Likud and also accepted her support for the two-state solution,
although it "hurt her."
Livni entered politics in 1995 when she tried unsuccessfully to win a
spot on Likud's list to the Knesset. She was appointed as head of the
government-owned corporations authority in Netanyahu's government, and
oversaw the privatization of a number of companies. While in this
capacity, in 1998 she was considered a prominent candidate to become
director general of the Finance Ministry.
Livni would later rue the decision to privatize certain companies and
natural resources. As
Hatnuah chairwoman in 2013, she wrote: "I am not
sure that today I would once again privatize
Israel Chemicals and the
natural resources at the Dead Sea."
Livni was first elected to the
Knesset as a member of the
Ariel Sharon became prime minister in 2001, he appointed
her to many positions his cabinet. Her first cabinet position as a
Likud member was Minister of Regional Co-operation which she held from
7 March 2001 until 29 August 2001. In December 2002 Sharon appointed
her to serve as Minister of Agriculture. She held this position until
February 2003. In 2003, Livni was appointed Minister of Immigrant
Absorption. She held this position until 2006. In 2004, Livni was
appointed Minister of Housing and Construction, which she held this
position until 2005.
Livni was an avid supporter of Sharon's disengagement plan, and was
generally considered to be among the key moderate members of the Likud
party. She often mediated between various elements inside the party,
and was integral to garnering government support for disengagement
with the "Livni Plan". She made efforts to achieve a two-state
solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, including successful
efforts to have the pullout from the
Gaza Strip ratified by the
Knesset. On 12 November 2005, she spoke at the official annual
commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. In 2004, she
received the Abirat Ha-Shilton ("Quality of Governance") award.
On 20 November 2005, Livni, a member of Likud's moderate wing,
Kadima party with Sharon and Ehud Olmert. Ahead of the 28
March elections, Livni was appointed to be the new Foreign Minister,
while continuing to serve as Justice Minister, as a result of the mass
Likud Party members from the government.
In the selection of candidates for the March 2006
Livni was awarded the number three position on Kadima's list of
candidates, which effectively guaranteed her election to the
2006–2009: Foreign Minister of Israel
Livni and French FM Douste-Blazy
In 2006, Livni was appointed as Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs.
She held this position until 2009. In Ehud Olmert's government, Livni
was also appointed Designated Acting Prime Minister (also known as
Vice Prime Minister), taking the place of the prime minister if he or
she is outside the country or temporarily or permanently unable to
fulfill his or her duties. She ceased serving as Justice Minister at
that time, but again held that position from 29 November 2006 to 7
February 2007, while still serving in her primary role of Foreign
Livni at the
World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2007
As Foreign Minister, Livni was in charge of negotiations with the
Palestinian Authority. During these negotiations, she raised the
possibility of fixing the future border between
Israel and the future
Palestinian state so as to place Israeli Arab towns within the
Palestinian state, an idea originally suggested by Israeli politician
Avigdor Liberman. Her record for pragmatism as foreign minister
earned her a high level of respect among US, European, and even Arab
diplomatic circles, that has lasted even after she left the post.
Livni and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2009
After the March 2006
Knesset election, she was described as "the
second most powerful politician in Israel". Livni is the second
Israel to hold the post of foreign minister, after Golda
Meir. In 2007, she was included in the
Time 100 Most Influential
People in the World.
Forbes ranked her the 40th most powerful
woman in the world in 2006, 39th in 2007, and 52nd in
Livni became the first Israeli cabinet minister to explicitly
differentiate Palestinian guerrilla attacks against Israeli military
targets from terrorist attacks against civilians. In an interview on
the US television news show Nightline, recorded on 28 March 2006,
Livni stated, "Somebody who is fighting against Israeli soldiers is an
enemy and we will fight back, but I believe that this is not under the
definition of terrorism, if the target is a soldier."
Livni meets with President George W. Bush
In 2007, she met with Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to
discuss "improving the lives of the Palestinian people, without
compromising Israel's security."
On 2 May 2007, Livni called for Olmert's resignation in the wake of
the publication of the Winograd Commission's interim report
criticizing Olmert and Defense Minister
Ehud Barak for their handling
Second Lebanon War
Second Lebanon War in 2006. She offered herself as leader of
Kadima if Olmert decided to step down, and asserted her confidence in
her ability to defeat him in a party election should he
decline. However, her call was ignored by Olmert and her
decision to stay in the Cabinet sparked some controversy.
In 2008, Livni condemned a photomontage of Pope
Benedict XVI with a
swastika displayed on his chest, which was published on a website run
by supporters of her
2008–2009: Candidate for Prime Minister
Tzipi Livni party 2009.
Kadima leadership victory
Facing multiple criminal investigations for corruption, Ehud Olmert
announced his intention to resign his post as prime minister following
Kadima leadership election, which was held on 17 September 2008.
Shaul Mofaz emerged as the main rivals for the
leadership. Livni won the
Kadima leadership election by a margin
of just 431 votes (1%). Palestinian peace negotiators were
reportedly pleased with the result.
Forming a government
As the new leader of the ruling party, Livni became prime-minister
designate. Upon declaring victory, she stated "the national
responsibility (bestowed) by the public brings me to approach this job
with great reverence."
On 21 September 2008, Olmert formally resigned in a letter submitted
to president Shimon Peres, and the following day Peres formally asked
Livni to form a new government. Livni faced tough negotiations
with Kadima's coalition partners, particularly the
Shas party, which
had set conditions for joining a Livni government, including an
increase in child allowances to Haredi communities, and a vow not to
negotiate the status of
Jerusalem during peace talks with the
Palestinians. Livni was able to sign a coalition agreement
with the Labor party, led by former prime minister Ehud Barak, but
on October 26, informed the President that she was unable to form a
government and suggested
Israel go to elections. Livni cited her
unwillingness to sell out her principles just to become prime
minister, stating, "I was willing to pay a price to form a government,
but I was never willing to risk the political and economic future of
Israel. If someone is willing to sell out his principles for the job,
he is not worthy of it." For its part, Likud, the main opposition
party led by Benjamin Netanyahu, lobbied
Shas and other parties
essential to Livni's government to support early elections.
Kadima youth activists, 2009
In February 2009
Israel held elections for the Knesset. Livni, foreign
minister and head of the
Kadima party, campaigned against Benjamin
Netanyahu of the
Likud party to lead the new government. While
election results gave
Kadima the most seats in the Knesset, parties to
the right in Israel's political spectrum gained enough seats that a
coalition government under
Kadima leadership was unlikely. As a
result, Israeli president
Shimon Peres asked
Netanyahu and Likud
(which received one fewer seat than
Kadima in the elections) to form a
government; this was the first time in Israel's history that the party
with the most seats was not asked to attempt to form a government.
Livni declares victory in 2009 elections
The New York Times
The New York Times commended Livni for "refusing the extortionist
conditions set by Shas," and endorsed her candidacy for prime
minister, saying Israelis would have "a clear choice in February
between a leader who has the courage to abandon tired old thinking on
politics and security and one who has not." Although it expressed
some doubts, the Israeli newspaper
Haaretz also endorsed Livni for
When Livni was tapped to form the next governing coalition,
Palestinian political analyst Mahdi Abdel Hadi said that Livni had
been received warmly in the Gulf, and that she was the leader most
Arabs want to see as Israel's next prime minister. During the 2009
general elections, Arab media depicted her very negatively but as the
lesser of the evils.
2009–2012: Leader of the Opposition
Livni upon assuming the role of Leader of the Opposition in the
Following the 2009 elections in which Livni's
Kadima won the most
seats, but could not form a government, she took the party into
opposition, becoming Israel's first female leader of the opposition.
After an internal Foreign Ministry document stated that some European
Union countries were considering freezing a planned upgrade in
relations with Israel, Livni, as opposition leader, wrote in the
message addressed to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the EU's
external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and the EU's
current council president, Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg:
"You all know my commitment to peace between
Israel and its neighbors
and to the two-state solution, a commitment shared with the majority
of the Israeli public. I believe that this kind of attitude, one which
directly links an upgrade in relations with regional diplomatic
progress, is overlooking the substantial gains that the upgrade could
provide both to the people of
Israel and the people of Europe."
On 25 May 2009, Livni told
Harvard University students: "On the
Iranian issue, there is no opposition or coalition in Israel. ... Iran
represents the threat of extreme Islamic state". She said Iran was a
threat to other countries in the region, and Iran must be stopped from
attaining nuclear weapons.
Prior to Lebanon's 2009 general elections (and its inclusion of
Hezbollah), Livni "acknowledged an important principle" from U.S.
President Barack Obama's then-recent speech in Cairo that "Elections
alone do not make true democracy." She explained her position in a New
York Times op-ed by alluding to her experience as Israel's justice
Hamas participated in Palestinian elections in 2006: "At
the time, the counterargument was that the very participation in
elections would act as a moderating force on extremist groups. With
more accountability, such groups would be tempted to abandon their
militant approach in favor of a purely political platform. But this
analysis ignored the possibility that some radical groups sought
participation in the democratic process not to forsake their violent
agenda but to advance it." Livni advocated that "the international
community must adopt at the global level what true democracies apply
at the national one—a universal code for participation in democratic
elections. This would include requiring every party running for office
to renounce violence, pursue its aims by peaceful means and commit to
binding laws and international agreements." She added: "The intent
here is not to stifle disagreement, exclude key actors from the
political process or suggest that democracy be uniform and disregard
local cultures and values."
Livni visiting a medical center in
Ashkelon with members of Kadima
Livni voiced support for Israel's gay community ahead of Gay and
Lesbian Pride Month in June 2009. She addressed an event held at the
gay community's municipal center in Tel Aviv's Meir Park.
After a 1 August 2009 attack on a gay youth center that left two
people dead and 15 wounded in Tel Aviv, Livni, who is in contact with
the gay and lesbian community, said "This event should shake up
society, and all the circles inherent in it, including the political
establishment and the education system, and on this day deliver an
unequivocal message against intolerance, incitement and violence, and
to act against any manifestation of these." She attended a rally near
the location of the attack, along with hundreds of Israelis and some
other politicians, and urged Israel's gay and lesbian community to
continue living their lives, despite the "hate crime." Livni
opposed Netanyahu's land reform bill.
Livni touring the site of a kindergarten leveled by bombs from Gaza
On 8 October 2009, Livni was honored by
Yale University as a Chubb
Fellow for her work and the inspiration spurred by her activities. She
is the third Israeli leader to receive this honor after Shimon Peres
and Moshe Dayan. The list also includes former U.S. Presidents Jimmy
Carter and Bill Clinton. Livni referred to the Goldstone Report
Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, and said there was a
huge ethical gap between those seeking to murder children in their
homes and those unintentionally harming civilians used by terrorists
as human shields. Referring to the Israeli shelling of several UN
schools in Gaza where thousands of civilians were taking shelter
during the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Livni insisted that she
"regret(s) every civilian casualty, but what happened at the UN school
was not a mistake." Addressing the peace process, Livni said
Israel is not involved in it as a favor to anyone, but that it is in
the interest of all parties. At her next stop in Miami, Livni became
the first Israeli woman to receive the International Hall of Fame
Award from the International Women's Forum.
As opposition leader, Livni noted in a 2009
Knesset speech that she
herself did not support Yitzhak Rabin's policies at the time. "The
dispute is around the question of whether you can have it both
Israel as a Jewish state and keeping the entire
Land of Israel," she said. Political analysts see Livni's speech
at the 2003 commemoration rally for Rabin as a turning point in her
political career when she became more popular among the Israeli peace
camp. She delivered a speech which many found deeply moving in which
she said the day Rabin was murdered was "the day that the skies fell
down on me because of what happened to us, to all the citizens of
Israel." As foreign minister, Livni would again attend the memorial
for Rabin in 2009. Labor Party officials were not keen on this idea,
fearing that her appearance would cost them votes. Some Kadima
officials also seemed reluctant, fearing her appearance at left-wing
event would send some votes Likud's way. Livni attended the
memorial for Rabin in 2009.
After a draft document authored by Sweden (the then-holder of the
rotating EU presidency) surfaced that calls officially for a division
Jerusalem and implies that the EU would also recognize a unilateral
Palestinian declaration of statehood, Livni wrote a letter to Swedish
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, saying it was "wrong and not helpful,"
and that she conveyed "deep concern regarding what appears to be an
attempt to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for final status
negotiations." European efforts to "dictate for either party the
nature of the outcome on the status of Jerusalem," she said, would
only serve to endanger the fulfillment of "our shared vision of two
states for two peoples into a reality." Livni also called on
France to speak up against the draft during her meeting with Sarkozy
Tzipi Livni at Biyalik Rogazin
In December 2009, Livni travelled to
Paris and met with French
president Nicolas Sarkozy. "Time is against us," she told reporters
following talks at the
Elysee Palace that also touched on Iran. "We
discussed the need to re-launch the peace process between
the Palestinians, and I believe that this is part of Israel's interest
to relaunch the negotiations from the point at which we stopped
basically a year ago."
During the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Livni was criticized by
Arab League Chairman
Amre Moussa who said that "I am greatly surprised
by, and I reject, the words of the Israeli foreign minister (Livni),
who asks: 'Is there a humanitarian crisis? There is no humanitarian
crisis in Gaza'" Livni was quoted as saying "
Israel has been
supplying comprehensive humanitarian aid to the [Gaza] strip... and
has even been stepping this up by the day."
Israel would later
allow a daily three-hour truce during the offensive to enable aid to
flow through a humanitarian corridor. Livni declared that the 2009
Gaza military offensive had "restored Israel's deterrence. ... Hamas
now understands that when you fire on its citizens it responds by
going wild – and this is a good thing."
UK arrest warrant
Livni and British Foreign Secretary William Hague
In December 2009, a warrant for Livni's arrest was understood to have
been issued by a British court, following an application by lawyers
acting for Palestinian victims of Operation Cast Lead. The warrant
focused on Livni's role in Israel's war against Hamas-run Gaza earlier
in the year, and was withdrawn after her visit was canceled. For
several years, Palestinian activists have made largely unsuccessful
attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in European courts under
universal jurisdiction. The warrant was issued on 12 December and
revoked on 14 December 2009, after it was revealed that Livni had not
entered British territory.
The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, contacted Livni and his
Avigdor Lieberman to formally explain the incident
and apologize on behalf of the British government. Miliband had
expressed concern at the situation and said officials were looking
"urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to
avoid this sort of situation arising again". Judges in the United
Kingdom can issue arrest warrants for war crimes suspects around the
world under the Geneva Convention Act 1957, without any requirement to
consult public prosecutors which was something Miliband described as
J Street applauded Miliband's rejection of the warrant
and "his promise to pursue a change in the law that would prevent
unfortunate events like these from happening in the future." Prime
Gordon Brown expressed his regret over the warrant and spoke
to Livni, reassuring her that she was "most welcome in Britain any
time." Livni's office later stated that Brown promised to seek
legislative changes to ensure no Israeli official would risk arrest
while on British soil.
Yehuda Blum, Israel's former ambassador to the
United Nations and a
professor of law at
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, commented: "The
abuse and misuse of this concept of universal jurisdiction should be
discontinued." Blum said the law was intended for use in cases with no
clear jurisdiction, such as piracy in international waters, and should
not be expanded for political aims. Israeli officials, acting under
orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the British
ambassador they expect quick action to change the law. Livni
called the arrest warrant "an abuse of the British legal system".
At a security conference in Israel, Livni did not directly address the
arrest warrant but defended Israel's conduct during Operation Cast
Lead, saying she "would make the same decisions all over again". "When
the state of
Israel has to do the right thing, it has to be done –
condemnation or no condemnation, statements or no statements, arrest
warrants or no arrest warrants. ... This is the role of leadership,
and as far as I’m concerned I would repeat each and every decision."
Leadership defeat and resignation
In November 2011, the three candidates opposed to
Tzipi Livni in 2008
called for a primary to be held as soon as possible, citing the
Knesset elections soon. On 19 January 2012, Livni set
the primary date for 27 March 2012. Livni lost by a wide margin (64.5%
to her 35.5%) to challenger and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz.
In May 2012, despite Mofaz's appeal for her to remain in the party,
Livni resigned from the Knesset. She stated that although she was
leaving the Knesset, she was not retiring from public life, as Israel
was "too dear" to her. Commenting on decisions she made, which may
have contributed to her loss, she stated "I am not sorry for not
backing down in the face of political blackmail—even when the price
was being in the government—and for not willing to sell the country
to the ultra-Orthodox," adding "And I'm definitely not sorry for the
main issue I promoted. Even if the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
isn't in vogue right now, there's an urgent need to reach a permanent
agreement with the Palestinians as well as with the Arab world."
On 27 November 2012, Livni announced the establishment of a new party,
Hatnuah ("The Movement"). She was joined by seven
Knesset from the
Kadima Party: Yoel Hasson, Robert Tiviaev,
Majalli Wahabi, Orit Zuaretz, Rachel Adato, Shlomo Molla and Meir
Sheetrit. as well as former Labor Party leaders
Amram Mitzna and
Minister of Justice
Following the 2013 elections, in which
Hatnuah won six seats in the
Knesset, Livni did not recommend any candidate for prime minister to
President Peres. After other party leaders endorsed Netanyahu, Livni
Hatnuah in being the first of several parties to agree to join a
new coalition under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, forming the
thirty-third government of Israel. According to the coalition
agreement negotiated between
Hatnuah and Likud, Livni was appointed
justice minister, as well as chief negotiator with the Palestinian
Authority. As environmental issues constituted a central plank in
Hatnuah's platform, Livni required her party be given the
environmental protection ministry, to which she appointed Amir Peretz.
Fulfilling her constitutional duty as Justice Minister, Livni served
as chairwoman of the powerful Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
Given her clout and experience with Western leaders, Netanyahu
unofficially charged Livni with overseeing Israel's diplomatic
relations with the United States and Europe, with Foreign Minister
Avigdor Liberman playing a lesser role.
2013–14 Israeli–Palestinian peace talks
Livni, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Palestinian negotiator
Saeb Erekat announce the resumption of peace talks
Livni led the Israeli negotiation team in the peace talks, brokered by
U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry and Middle East envoy Martin Indyk
from July 2013 until April 2014. Upon announcing the resumption of
Israel and the Palestinians at a press conference
delivered at the U.S. State Department, Livni criticized the "cynicism
and pessimism" surrounding Israeli–Palestinian peace process, and
expressed hope that the negotiators would do everything in their power
to transform a "spark of hope into something real and lasting." In
concluding remarks praised for their poignancy, she said, "I believe
that history is not made by cynics. It is made by realists who are not
afraid to dream. And let us be these people." The process
collapsed in April 2014 when internal political difficulties prevented
Israel from releasing a promised fourth tranche of pre-Oslo prisoners
and the Palestinians reacted by acceding to several international
treaties. Indyk cited Israel's settlement policy during the talks
as a critical factor leading to the collapse.
Livni briefs The
Livni continued on as justice minister until 2 December 2014, when a
coalition crisis over multiple policy disagreements boiled over, and
Netanyahu fired Livni along with Finance Minister
Yair Lapid from
their posts, accusing the two of plotting a "putsch" to overthrow the
government. Livni and Lapid had often criticized government
Netanyahu claimed amounted to an "opposition within
the coalition," and made it "impossible to govern." A particular
source of frustration for
Netanyahu was Livni's control of the
powerful ministerial committee on legislation.
In December 2014 (after Livni had been dismissed as a cabinet
minister), Secretary of State
John Kerry told European Union
ambassadors that his stance against a unilateral Palestinian measure
at the UN Security Council was influenced by his talks with Livni and
former president Shimon Peres, who said such a move could serve the
political interests of those opposing the peace process.
2014–Present: The Zionist Union
Zionist Union campaign poster
After the dissolution of the
Knesset in December 2014, Labor leader
Isaac Herzog and Livni announced a joint slate between Labor and
Hatnuah, called the Zionist Union, to contest the 2015 elections in an
effort to keep Netanyahu, leader of the
Likud Party, from securing a
fourth term as prime minister. They proposed to share the role of
prime minister (an arrangement known in the
Knesset as rotation) if
they won enough votes, though Livni also stated she would step back if
her participation presented a hurdle to coalition building.
Widely seen as being a "game-changer" in what was initially thought
would be an effectively uncontested election resulting in Netanyahu's
reelection, the partnership between Livni and Herzog created
significant momentum and galvanized Israel's center-left voters, who
saw the partnership as having a realistic chance to form a government,
something which had been absent in the previous elections.
Indeed, many opinion polls during the campaign showed
Likud and the
Zionist Union in dead heat, and the few weeks leading up to the
elections suggested Livni and Herzog had overtaken Netanyahu, and
would emerge with a plurality of voters. Initial exit polls indicated
that both parties had won 27 seats, but the final count showed the
Zionist Union garnering only 24 mandates to the Likud's 30. Following
the elections, Livni and the
Zionist Union went into opposition.
Livni at pride event in Be'er Sheva, 2015
Livni currently serves as a member of the
Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. In
August 2015, in response to the submission of a motion to raise the
Palestinian flag at the UN headquarters, Livni initiated the creation
of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on International
Lawfare, which she chairs. At the committee's inaugural meeting, Livni
characterized the Palestinian motion as "part of an orchestrated
diplomatic and legal struggle that is meant to create legitimacy for a
Palestinian state with all that that means, and to deny legitimacy to
the State of Israel." She argued that despite the lack of attention it
receives, "[lawfare] is a war front as any other." The committee's
mandate, according to Livni, is to "deal with lawfare not only to see
how we can defend ourselves, but also to try to change international
Israel in a legal context and how to deal with moves
the Palestinians are trying to make over Israel's head."
^ "Israel's foreign minister has edge in party race". Reuters. 1
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