It's official: Israel is heading towards a nationwide election. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni informed President Shimon Peres on Sunday that she has failed in negotiating the formation of a new government, and the latter will therefore most likely call for general elections.
"The nation will choose its leaders," Livni told Peres, adding that she was certain of her victory in a general vote.
During a televised interview held between the two leaders at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem, Livni attempted to persuade Peres to refrain from holding another round of talks prior to announcing the elections, but the latter reminded her that she still had three days in which to speak with with party leaders.
"I want to thank you for making a serious and honest effort to form a government under very difficult circumstances," the president told Livni.
He expressed surprise that the Kadima chairwoman had informed him of her decision to relinquish negotiations a week ahead of the time Peres had allotted her.
"I discovered immediately after the holidays that the process had exhausted itself and I didn't need more time," Livni said. "The public has tired of politics. If you know time will not contribute to finding a solution then more time doesn't help, it only prolongs the uncertainty."
Peres said he would meet with various party leaders in order to allow them to express their opinions on the pending vote, after which he said a date could be set. "Elections are not tragedies, the only issues are the timing and the method," he explained.
Compromise, to a point
Following her interview with the president Livni gave a short public speech. "I was prepared to pay a price for the formation of a new government, but up until the last minute I was not prepared to risk Israel's financial and political future," she said, hinting at Shas' demands, which Kadima claims were excessive.
She added, "I made the decision to cooperate with certain partners because I believe that compromise is necessary in such a polarized country. I decided to grant needy families financial assistance because I believe the government is responsible for supplying social needs when they are not narrow, sectarian needs."
"I believe a prime minister is chosen first and foremost in order to promote the interests of the state, and anyone who is willing to auction off his ideals for a seat is not worthy of sitting in it," she concluded.
Prior to Livni's arrival at the Presidential Residence, another effort was made to schedule a meeting between the Kadima chairwoman and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, in order to enable the last-minute construction of a coalition.
However both sides were dismissive of the possible success of such negotiations, and a top Livni aide said, "No one would speak to us." Yishai's office stated in response that there had been no change, and therefore no reason to schedule a meeting.