Politicians are by nature narcissistic creatures, but it is possible that former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni will come down in history as the narcissist’s narcissist. This afternoon she announced the launching of her new party, to be named: The Movement under the Leadership of Tzipi Livini. And if you figured that it only sounds this bad in English, trust me, it sounds just as bizarre in Hebrew.
Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of the movement led by Tzipi Livni, with her dark blonde Prince Valiant, obviously after a good, pre-run diet to trim that zaftig post-defeat figure, told a room packed with her supporters (a huge no-no in Israeli politics, you don’t bring your fans to a press conference – as one Israeli reporter made sure to protest loudly during the live broadcast) that she had spotted a vacuum at the center of Israel’s political map, a vacuum created largely by the colossal failure of her own party – and that she was determined to go after those low hanging fruits of Israel’s mythical, undecided centrists.
The press conference and the announcement against a backdrop of campaign posters that bore her name, marked a kind of last stand for a leader whose career was always hers to lose. Like Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, Livni is member of the Likud royalty, a princess among princes, daughter of Eitan Livni, the chief of staff of the Irgun, Livni picked up her engraved invitation when she was appointed by Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 to manage the privatization of government-owned companies. In 1999 she made it, after one failed attempt, into the Knesset, and shortly thereafter was picked up by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to serve in his government. She followed Sharon out of the Likud and into Kadima, all the time serving in a variety of ministerial positions, including a stint as Foreign Minister for Sharon’s successor Ehud Olmert.
Then, in 2009, after Olmert was forced to resign following corruption charges, Livni led theKadima party to victory in the polls. She beat Netanyahu’s Likud party by one vote, 28 to 27. But Tzipi Livni who had made a superb second and third in command for three masters, was unable to apply the lessons she had learned and ended up being outmaneuvered by the wilier and more experienced Netanyahu, earning the dubious record of being the only party leader who won the numeric vote and didn’t get to form the coalition government.
This afternoon, a reporter hammered that point in with the kind of cruelty one expects of the Israeli press: With all due respect, she asked the candidate, the voter has already given you a mandate four years ago, and you dropped the ball. Why should anyone choose you again?
Livni, who had clearly been practicing for just this kind of an in-your-face dig, was nevertheless shaken by it. She answered that she had lost her first chance because she stuck by her values, and preferred to sit out the term on the opposition benches rather than lower her standards.
Ah, well, that’s encouraging.
With the date for submitting the final party lists approaching (next week), Livni received a generous prediction in one of this morning’s polls – 9 seats. But does she even have nine potential seat-worthy candidates, or is she going to follow the example another narcissist, Yair Lapid, and appoint her hairdresser, gardener and trainer?
It was a disheartening press conference of a political hack well past her prime who believes she has any credit left with the voters. From what we’ve seen this week at the Likud primaries, the Israeli voter has no problem dropping his leaders when they’ve disappointed him – and Tzipi Livni is one big, self inflated disappointment.