Tzipi Livni

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Tzipi Livni
Tzipi Livni May 2014 (cropped).jpg
Date of birth (1958-07-08) 8 July 1958 (age 58)
Place of birth Tel Aviv, Israel
Knessets 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
Faction represented in Knesset
1999–2005 Likud
2005–2012 Kadima
2013–2015 Hatnuah
2015– Zionist Union (Hatnuah)
Ministerial roles
2001 Minister of Regional Cooperation
2001–2002 Minister without Portfolio
2002–2003 Minister of Agriculture
2003–2006 Minister of Immigrant Absorption
2004–2005 Minister of Housing and Construction
2006–2007 Minister of Justice
2006–2009 Minister of Foreign Affairs
2013–2014 Minister of Justice
Other roles
2006–2009 Designated Acting Prime Minister
2009–2012 Leader of the Opposition

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,[1][2] Livni has served in eight different cabinet positions throughout her career, setting the record for most government roles ever held by an Israeli woman.[3] Consequently, she has achieved a number of milestones in Israeli female political leadership, as the first female Vice Prime Minister, Justice Minister, Agriculture Minister, and Housing Minister. In 2011, she was named one of "150 Women Who Shake the World" by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.[4] From 2006 to 2008, Forbes' Magazine ranked Livni on its List of 100 Most Powerful Women three years in row,[5][6][7] while Time Magazine included her in its 2007 "Time 100," for which U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice penned an op-ed.[8] In Israel, Livni has earned a reputation as an honest politician who sticks to her principles.[9][10][11][12][13][14]

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.[15][16]

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 electoral victory, 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.[17] Later that year, Livni founded a new party, Hatnuah,[18] 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.

Early life[edit]

Born in Tel Aviv,[19] Livni is the daughter of Eitan Livni (born in Poland) and Sara (Rosenberg), both prominent former Irgun members.[20] After Israel's independence, Eitan and Sara Livni became the first couple to marry in the new state.[21] 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.[22] Growing up in an Israel dominated by the Labour Party, Livni says she felt marginalized, believing that the establishment had minimized her parents’ contribution to Israel’s founding.[23] Despite the hard-line image of the Irgun, she says her parents had respect for the Arabs[23] and acted only against the British army, not civilians.[24] During the 1984 Likud primaries, her father, who had served in the Knesset for Herut and Likud as a moderate,[18] 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 Arab representation.[23]

Service in the military and Mossad[edit]

Livni served in the IDF, gaining rank of lieutenant.[25] 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.[26] She resigned from the IDF in August 1983 to marry and finish her law studies.[27]

Education, family, and legal career[edit]

A graduate of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Law, she has practiced public and commercial law for over 10 years.[28] Livni resides in Tel Aviv. She is married to advertising executive Naftali Spitzer, and the couple have two children, Omri and Yuval. Livni has been a vegetarian since the age of 12.[29] Besides her native language, Hebrew, Livni also speaks English and fluent French, having lived in Paris for a number of years.[28]

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."[21][23]

Political career[edit]

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."[22]

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."[30]

1999–2005: Likud[edit]

Livni was first elected to the Knesset as a member of the Likud in 1999. When 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 Ariel 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.[31]

Livni was an avid supporter of the prime minister'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.[32] In 2004, she received the Abirat Ha-Shilton ("Quality of Governance") award.

2005–12: Kadima[edit]

On 20 November 2005, Livni, a member of Likud's moderate wing,[18] formed the 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 resignation of Likud Party members from the government.[33]

In the selection of candidates for the March 2006 Knesset election, Livni was awarded the number three position on Kadima's list of candidates, which effectively guaranteed her election to the Knesset.[34]

2006–9: Foreign Minister[edit]

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 Minister.[34]

Livni at the 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.[35] Her record for pragmatism as foreign minister earned her a high level of respect among U.S., European, and even Arab diplomatic circles, that has lasted even after she left the post.[18]

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".[36] Livni is the second woman in 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.[37] Forbes ranked her the 40th most powerful woman in the world in 2006,[38] 39th in 2007,[39] and 52nd in 2008.[40]

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."[41]

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."[42]

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 of the 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.[43][44] However, her call was ignored by Olmert and her decision to stay in the Cabinet sparked some controversy.[45]

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 Kadima party.[46]

2008–9: Candidate for Prime Minister[edit]

Youth for Tzipi Livni party 2009.

Kadima leadership victory[edit]

Facing multiple criminal investigations for corruption, Ehud Olmert announced his intention to resign his post as prime minister following a Kadima leadership election, which was held on 17 September 2008. Livni and Shaul Mofaz emerged as the main rivals for the leadership.[47] Livni won the Kadima leadership election by a margin of just 431 votes (1%).[48][49] Palestinian peace negotiators were reportedly pleased with the result.[50]

Forming a government[edit]

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."[51]

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.[52][53] 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.[54][55] Livni was able to sign a coalition agreement with the Labor party, led by former prime minister Ehud Barak,[56] 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."[57] For it's part, the Likud the main opposition party led by Benjamin Netanyahu, lobbied Shas and other parties essential to Livni's government to support early elections.[58]

2009 elections[edit]

Kadima youth activists, 2009

In February 2009 Israel held elections for the national parliament, 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.[59]

Livni declares victory in 2009 elections

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."[60] Although it expressed some doubts, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz also endorsed Livni for prime minister.[61] When Livni was tapped to form the next governing coalition, Palestinian political analyst Mahdi Abdel Hadi said that Livni has been received warmly in the Gulf, and that she is the leader most Arabs want to see as Israel's next prime minister.[62] During the 2009 general elections, Arab media depicted her very negatively but as the lesser of the evils.[63][64][65]

2009–12: Leader of the opposition[edit]

Livni upon assuming the role of Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset

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."[66]

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.[67]

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 minister when 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."[68]

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.[69][70] 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."[71] Livni opposed Netanyahu's land reform bill.[72]

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 accusing 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."[73][74] 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.[75][76]

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 ways -– maintaining Israel as a Jewish state and keeping the entire Land of Israel," she said.[77] 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.[78] Livni attended the memorial for Rabin in 2009.[79]

After a draft document authored by Sweden (the then-holder of the rotating EU presidency) surfaced that calls officially for a division of 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."[80] Livni also called on France to speak up against the draft during her meeting with Sarkozy in Paris.[81]

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 Israel and 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."[82]

Criticism[edit]

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'"[83] 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."[84] Israel would later allow a daily three-hour truce during the offensive to enable aid to flow through a humanitarian corridor.[85] 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."[86]

UK arrest warrant[edit]

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.[87] The warrant was issued on 12 December and revoked on 14 December 2009, after it was revealed that Livni had not entered British territory.[88][89][90]

The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, contacted Livni and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman to formally explain the incident and apologize on behalf of the British government.[91] 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 "unusual".[92] 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."[93] Prime Minister 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.[94]

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.[95] Livni called the arrest warrant "an abuse of the British legal system".[96] 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[edit]

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 probability of 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 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."[97]

2012–14: Hatnuah[edit]

2013 elections[edit]

On 27 November 2012, Livni announced the establishment of a new party, called Hatnuah ("The Movement").[98][99] She was joined by seven members of Knesset from the Kadima Party: Yoel Hasson, Robert Tiviaev, Majalli Wahabi, Orit Zuaretz, Rachel Adato, Shlomo Molla and Meir Sheetrit.[99] as well as former Labor Party leaders Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz.

Minister of Justice[edit]

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 led 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.

The peace process[edit]

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 talks between 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."[100] The process collapsed in April 2004 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.[101] Indyk cited Israel's settlement policy during the talks as a critical factor leading to the collapse.[102]

Dismissal[edit]

Livni briefs The Israel Project

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.[103] Livni and Lapid had often criticized government decisions, which 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.[104]

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.[105][106]

2014–present: The Zionist Union[edit]

Zionist Union campaign poster

2015 elections[edit]

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.[107] 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.[108] 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.

Opposition[edit]

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 trends against Israel in a legal context and how to deal with moves the Palestinians are trying to make over Israel’s head."[109]

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