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At an election crossroads, Livni quits politics and party ahead of April elections

Still adrift after being kicked out of the Zionist Union, Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni announces her departure from politics less than a week before the deadline to submit final Knesset lists • Livni: “I am leaving politics, but not the hope for peace.”

Knesset member Tzipi Livni attends a Conference of Israel Hofsheet organization at Kibbutz Nahsholim on Jan. 4, 2019. Credit: Flash90.
Knesset member Tzipi Livni attends a Conference of Israel Hofsheet organization at Kibbutz Nahsholim on Jan. 4, 2019. Credit: Flash90.

Hatnua Party chairwoman Tzipi Livni is leaving politics, she announced at a press conference at Sokolov House in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon.

“I am standing aside, and Hatnua will not run in the Knesset election under my leadership,” said Livni.

Livni said that “20 years ago, I was elected to the Israeli Knesset. The same Zionist values I learned in my parents’ home have been with me throughout my years in public life.

However, she continued, “Obvious values have become controversial. ‘Peace’ became a bad word. The idea of separating from the Palestinians to achieve peace was replaced by the idea of annexing territories.”

Livni spoke about how she envisioned the role of the leadership of Israel: “The role of leadership, is to defend the right of expression of those with whom we do not agree. This is a battle for Israel. I think it’s terrible that today one needs courage to espouse the basic values that form the basis for the State of Israel,” she said.

“Anyone who thinks that the struggle for a state that is both Jewish and democratic is a mark of Cain, is wrong. I paid a price for that. All throughout my public life, I was willing to pay it,“ she said.

“I know I did everything I could,” Livni said, before thanking Knesset members who have supported her. “I am leaving politics, but not the hope for peace in Israel.”

The announcement came less than a week before the Feb. 21 deadline for parties to submit their final lists for the April 9 election.

Polls showed that Hatnua was unlikely to pass the minimum electoral threshold, and Livni was not able to broker a merger with any other party.

Livni, who was trying to establish her diplomatic credentials and launched a campaign featuring pictures of herself with world leaders, was well-aware of her critical political condition.

Throughout her career, she has found her way to senior positions, including justice minister and opposition leader.

On Sunday, some officials in Hatnua said Livni still appeared determined to succeed in the election and prove to everyone that she was “the only one who can defend democracy,” as her campaign slogan claimed.

Livni would have liked to run on a joint list with Yesh Atid. But Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said that he had no desire to strike a merger deal with her, apparently because he did not consider her an asset. Members of Yesh Atid said negotiations “never existed and never will.”

At the start of the year, Livni suffered a humiliation at the hands of Labor chairman Avi Gabbay, who blindsided her by announcing at a press conference—as she was sitting beside him—that he was dismantling the Zionist Union (the joint Labor-Hatnua list formed in 2015).

Livni said at the time that all she had ever heard from Gabbay was “me, me, me.”

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