Dramatic split in Israel’s opposition as a former foreign minister is dumped on TV
JERUSALEM — The new year did not start well for veteran Israeli leftist politician Tzipi Livni, who was publicly ditched by her opposition partner on television on Tuesday, as Israel’s political drama ramps up ahead of elections.
Livni, formerly Israel’s foreign minister, sat stony faced and silent next to Avi Gabbay, leader of the left-leaning Zionist Union, as he announced the move in a news conference in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Gabbay’s Labor Party and Livni’s Hatnua party have been in an alliance since 2014.
‘‘I hoped and believed this alliance would bring about our blossoming,’’ Gabbay said. ‘‘But the public is smart, saw this is not the situation, and distanced itself from us.’’
‘‘Tzipi, I wish you success in the election, in any party you are in,’’ he said to gasps from the room. Livni takes over the microphone to say she will not respond before leaving the room.
The move came as Israel prepares for early elections, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition last month announced would take place in April. The polls predict another win for the incumbent leader’s party, despite Netanyahu being investigated in three corruption cases and the police recommending that he be indicted.
As Gabbay pointed out in his speech, support for the opposition Zionist Union has slipped away, with polls showing it doing poorly in elections, winning as few as eight seats compared with the 24 it currently holds. His decision to so publicly split with Livni, in a move she later said was a surprise, sets the tone for an ugly election fight.
Later explaining his decision, Gabbay said that Livni ‘‘didn’t have a good word to say about me,’’ the Israeli press reported, using a turn of phrase comparing his action to having to eating excrement.
When later asked about his comments in a news conference, Livni responded: ‘‘I didn’t look at his plate. I don’t know what he ate.’’