Former Israeli foreign minister Livni announces election bid

Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:10am EST
 

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced her candidacy on Tuesday in a January general election, pledging to "fight for peace" with the Palestinians as a centrist alternative to Israel's right-wing leadership.

Livni, voted out as the head of the main opposition Kadima party in an internal ballot in March, told a news conference she had formed a new party, "Hat'nua" (The Movement).

Opinion polls predict Livni will win seven to nine of parliament's 120-seats, grabbing votes from left-of-center factions and not generating enough support to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing bloc.

Livni, a 54-year-old corporate lawyer, was once touted as Israel's next Golda Meir -- the only woman who ever served as prime minister. As foreign minister from 2006 to 2009, during Ehud Olmert's premiership, she was appointed to the high-profile task of heading peace talks with the Palestinians.

But the negotiations failed, Olmert was forced to step down in a corruption scandal, and while Kadima won more votes than Likud in the ensuing 2009 parliamentary election, Netanyahu outmaneuvered Livni to form a broad coalition government.

Her return to frontline politics will further fracture Israel's center-left, with a slew of parties courting the same pool of voters and rejecting suggestions that they should merge to form a stronger, more unified front against Netanyahu.

Thronged by supporters and standing in front of a banner bearing the name of her new party, Livni spoke of hope, unity and dialogue. "I came to fight for peace, I came to fight for security," she said.

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Former centrist Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (L) greets supporters during a news conference in Tel Aviv November 27, 2012. REUTERS/Nir Elias