Ousted Kadima chairwoman Tzippi Livni is retiring from politics for now. She leaves behind a bland, uneventful political career with barely any accomplishments to speak of.
When then-Kadima leader Ehud Olmert faced withering criticism for his handling of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, and even more withering fire for his alleged corruption probes afterwards, Livni failed to push Olmert aside and forge a new leadership. By trying to keep ‘politically clean,’ by promising ‘a different politics without cynicism,’ Livni remained politically ineffectual. Only after Olmert was forced to resign did she inherit the mantle of leadership. She didn’t take it from him, it, like much of her political career, was handed to her.
After the general elections in 2009, in which Livni’s party won the most Knesset seats [28 to Likud’s 27] she failed to form a coalition government, paving the way for Netanyahu to take the reins of power. Livni’s inexperience and naïveté cost her the prime minister’s office. By sending her negotiators to potential coalition partners with a fixed offer, Livni was outflanked by Netanyahu, who showed that he is a much savvier political operator.
In the three years since her failed bid for power, Livni has failed to keep Kadima united, vibrant, and relevant. Above all, her failure to respond in time to last summer’s socioeconomic protest sealed her fate. The Kadima Chairwoman stayed out of the socioeconomic protest movement that erupted here in early June, not wanting to give the government the excuse it was looking for to taint the grassroots movement, which started over the high price of cottage cheese and lack of affordable housing, in a political hue. Livni calculated, wrongly, that the Israeli middle class would rise up and hound Benjamin Netanyahu’s government out of town. But, as things turned out, the middle class didn’t want a revolution [as middle classes rarely ever do]. It wanted the government to get to work. It wanted the government to fix things, lower prices, lower taxes, and make day-care tax deductible.
She failed to make peace with Mofaz, she failed to coax Yair Lapid into Kadima, or even into an alliance with Kadima, and she failed in inspiring the nation by coming up with something, anything new.
Her term as foreign minister under an Olmert government also proved uneventful, with Olmert doing the heavy lifting opposite PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and behind the scenes with Bashar Assad. She never struck out on her own [as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is doing, rightly or wrongly] and she never offered even the faintest hint of originality, creativity, or dogged determination.
And then, finally, she failed to defeat Mofaz, a challenger that she already beat once before.
Three years after inheriting the party from Ehud Olmert, who inherited it from Ariel Sharon, Tzipi Livni was unceremoniously shown the door.
The only thing surprising about any of this is the surprise at her demise by those who didn’t know her. But those of us who followed her career closely are not so surprised.