The same polls, and others which have yet to be published, give a collaboration between the two at least 30 Knesset seats. If the polls are correct, Shelly and Tzipi – or Tzipi and Shelly – are the only alternative and the only thing threatening Benjamin Netanyahu's third term.
Unlike other party leaders (Avigdor Lieberman, Aryeh Deri, Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett), Shelly Yachimovich and Tzipi Livni have marked – both for them and for us – the Prime Minister's Office as a legitimate political target in the upcoming elections.
The question why won’t they join forces and create a joint body that will turn this aspiration from a whim into a real option has a host of significant answers, but only one is true: The unwillingness and inability to give up the honor of taking the wheel in favor of the other, even if it is clear and known that the wheel does not lead either of them to the desired office.
Neither Livni nor Yachimovich cannot beat Netanyahu alone, and if they say the country must not be left in his hands for four more years – they must not go to these elections alone. Politics is a tool. It is a means of achieving important goals. Not everything is permitted in the name of political cynicism. Not every concession is legitimate, and not everything is flexible. Machiavellism is still a bad word. But a merger between Livni and Yachimovich is none of these. It's neither artificial nor corrupt, it does not create a virtual reality and does not serve the voter rotten food wrapped in deceiving cellophane.
I am intentionally not getting into the question of who should lead and who should give up for now and go down to the No. 2 spot on the list. Livni is right when she points to her political seniority, the roles she has already filled in Israel's governments and in important political processes, and her ability to gain more Knesset seats than Netanyahu.
Yachimovich leads a historical, existing party rather than a temporary political body, she managed to rebuild it and will likely succeed in nearly doubling its number of seats in the next Knesset, and she will be right if she says that there is no justification for her to vacate her seat at the top in favor of reinforcement from the outside.
They are both right and they are both wrong. If Livni goes alone, she will be walking toward four dull years in the opposition or crawling into the Netanyahu government in a worse than mediocre role. If Yachimovich stays alone, she will be the opposition chairwoman or an almost senior minister in the next government.
If they go together, there is a chance that one of them will be prime minister and the other foreign minister, and even if they lose – their ability to influence the next government with 30 Knesset seats will be dramatic. And isn't that what it's all about – Influence, power, the ability to change, at a reasonable price of making a concession without selling yourself and your personality and ideologies for cheap?
I am told that the chance for such a merger resembles the chance we had to topple the Hamas government. I insist on thinking that it can be realized without causing injuries or damage and with a small sacrifice called ego. How and who will decide on the identity of the leader? It must be a cold and calculated political decision, which estimates where the chance is higher and where the result is more productive.
President Peres is probably waiting for the next elections to run, Ehud Olmert may decide this week, but if these two men are out of the picture – there are only two women who can provide us with some interest and some tension in this election campaign which has just been restarted.
Shelly Yachimovich, you shouldn't run alone. And neither should you, Tzipi Livni.