Election of Tzipi Livni at the head of Kadima

Press review – week from September 15th to 19th, 2008

As expected, but with only a short advance, Tzipi Livni was elected Wednesday night to lead the Kadima party. The information was put in evidence in the international press the following day. This election is controversial in many aspects: the short victory of Livni on Mofaz, her future task of forming a government, her work as former Minister of Foreign Affairs and her commitment to peace. So many question surround Livni from her first day at the head of theKadima.

Le Monde gets back to the small difference obtained by Tzipi Livni on her competitor, Shaul Mofaz. The French daily stresses that the candidate requested an extension of half an hour of the voting, sensing the importance of some more votes. It is true that members of Kadima were not eager to go to the polls: only 53.7% of them got out to vote on Wednesday. Tzipi Livni did eventually prevail with 431 votes ahead of Mofaz, which represents only 1.1% of the vote, against the 10% announced. Many would have preferred Mofaz said the Herald Tribune thanks to his intransigence on the security of Israel. He has indeed served as chief of General Staff of the Israeli army and is more in the right wing of the party.

Tzipi Livni has made a quite spectacular political path as she entered the Knesset in 1999. She experienced then a take-off thanks to Ariel Sharon in the government of whose she became Minister of Regional cooperation. Le Figaro gets back on her life emphasizing her purely Israeli origins because both her parents were settlers before 1948 and members of the Irgun. Following a begin in politics in the Likud, she followed Ariel Sharon’s reversal of 2005 and joined Kadima. The road that led her to the center is pragmatic. She explains herself in these terms: « I believe, as my parents, the right of the Jewish people to the hole land of Israel … But if I have to choose between my dreams and my desire to live in a democracy, I prefer to give up some of this land to live in a sovereign, Jewish and democratic State ».

The Israeli press is skeptical about Livni’s tight victory and especially on her ability to form a new government. The Jerusalem Post emphasizes that Livni is undoubtedly the Prime Minister elected with the smallest number of seats in the history of Israel – she obtained 17 000 votes, representing only 0.24% of the Israeli population. According to the newspaperHaaretz, one of the first tasks Livni is to “de-Olmertize” the party, removing « any form of corruption or cronyism. » But despite these measures, Kadima will have difficulty to find enough legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens of Israel. The Yediot Aharonot recommends the holding of early elections to strengthen her legitimacy while recognizing however the danger for Kadima since the Likud holds now a good place in the polls.

On the Arab-Palestinian side, opinions are mixed. As reported by the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi, representatives of the Palestinian Authority have in general welcomed the choice of the Israeli people « , noting the qualities of the one already engaged in the peace process by her former position of Minister of Foreign Affairs. Relayed by Al Jazeera, however, some voices fear instability that could result from this election and from the attempts to form a new majority. Tzipi Livni would indeed first attempt to reform a government with the same coalition, ie the Labor Party, the Pensioners’ Party and Shas. The latter especially has requirements which could jeopardize the peace process with the Palestinians: it rejects any changes to the status of East Jerusalem. On the other hand, encouraging a high birth rate, it would also the system of family allowances to be reviewed, as Tzipi Livni is not ready to do it. Finally, the Palestinian news agency, Maan News reported the opinion of the spokesman of the Hamas Fawzi Bahroum which states that the Palestinians must not expect anything from the change of power in Israel.

Few newspapers or agencies are really positive about the election of Tzipi Livni. Many uncertainties emerge and only the political events of the next few months will answer all the questions it is raising.