Commentary Magazine


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Tzipi’s Test

At long last, we are seeing Tzipi Livni being truly tested as a leader. After embarrassing herself with victory celebrations on election night, and repeated declarations that she would be the next prime minister when it was clear she would not, the time has come for her to make the hardest decision of all: join Bibi Netanyahu as the junior partner in the coalition, or take her party to the opposition?

Opposition can be great for a party with a clear ideological or policy platform, or a strong tradition of governance that can attract voters dissatisfied with the government’s performance. But that’s not the case here. If Livni leads Kadima into the opposition, there’s a reasonable chance that the party, or at least Livni’s chairing of it, will not survive. With a major faction led by Shaul Mofaz already clamoring to join the government, Livni will need to face a party that may already be quite tired of her.

But joining the government is not easy for Livni, as she has repeatedly declared she wouldn’t take a junior position to Bibi. Yet it seems clear that if she wants to create a plausible case for Kadima’s continued existence and her continued leadership of it, she needs to prove herself, first of all to her own party. This will be much harder to do in opposition, rather than in the position of foreign minister. As Sima Kadmon puts it in YNet, “When Netanyahu will present his generous offers – and they will be generous; very generous – count to 10 before you reply. First of all, because it will be much harder to change your mind after you say no. And you know what else? Next time you come to Bibi – because you have no choice, because your party colleagues will pressure you, and because of public pressure – his offer will be less generous.”