In a mad scramble to hand in their candidate lists for the Knesset elections by the deadline on Thursday night, the Israeli political parties engaged in a last round of horse-trading this week, with veteran MKs and aspiring parliamentarians jockeying for “safe” spots.
Nowhere was the action more feverish than in the newest party on the political scene: former foreign minister Tzipi Livni’s “Hatnuah”, which was founded only last Tuesday.
Ms Livni had two conflicting priorities — to locate new and popular public figures to run on her list and to convince a sizable number of serving Knesset members to sign up. The MKs are needed because only current members can receive campaign funding before the election.
However, since the latest polls have Ms Livni receiving somewhere between six and nine seats in the next Knesset and she will obviously put the most popular candidates at the top of her list, less attractive veterans are likely to be pushed down to less safe spots. Despite this, seven Kadima MKs are defecting to Ms Livni, most prominent among them former minister Meir Sheetrit, who entered the Knesset for the first time as a Likud member in 1981.
Mr Sheetrit is guaranteed a “safe” spot on the list, as is Ms Livni’s biggest catch so far, former Labour leader Amram Mitzna, who joined her on Sunday after launching an attack on Shelly Yachimovich’s leadership of Labour.
In addition, Ms Livni has brought in Jerusalem councilwoman Merav Cohen, one of the leaders of last summer’s social protests.
Ms Livni’s main rival for centrist voters, Yair Lapid, also presented the main candidates on his list on Sunday. To counter accusations that his Yesh Atid party is ultra-secular and anti-religious, he selected a modern-Orthodox rabbi and educator, Shai Piron, for the second spot.