There is widespread speculation in the Israeli media this morning that if early elections are called both Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni are planning to return to the political scene.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have made little headway in his attempts to win coalition approval for the proposed 2013 budget, increasing the prospect that he will choose to go to the polls in early 2013. As such, speculation is increasing that two former leaders of the Kadima Party, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, are plotting their respective returns to politics in order to challenge Netanyahu.
Former Foreign Minister Livni was defeated by Shaul Mofaz earlier this year in an election for the leadership of Kadima and has since remained outside the political arena. However, Israeli daily Maariv reports that she is planning to return at the head of a new centre-left party in time for the next general election. The report claims that Livni ally and former Justice Minister Haim Ramon believes that Livni herself can command 14-15 Knesset seats, which can be substantially increased by enlisting the support of former journalist Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party. Channel 10 reported yesterday evening that Livni is seeking permission to use the name of the defunct Hetz (“arrow”) party, which would circumvent the budgetary restrictions placed on newly formed parties.
Meanwhile, Israel Hayom reports that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is also mulling a comeback, given the prospects of early elections. Olmert recently emerged from a lengthy corruption trial with only a minor conviction, an outcome which many believe paves the way for his political return. According to the Jerusalem Post, Olmert is considering trying to lead a unified bloc of centre-left parties, including Kadima, Yesh Atid and a new party headed by Livni. However, Olmert still faces separate accusations of corruption in relation to the Holyland property development in Jerusalem. The centre-left block in Israel is currently fractured, with several politicians vying to lead it.