The Kadima, Labor and Meretz parties won a total of 44 Knesset seats in the 2009 elections. The said poll gives Labor, Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party, Independence (before Ehud Barak announced his decision to quit politics), Meretz and a party led by Tzipi Livni a total of 47 Knesset seats. And this was even before Livni launched her campaign.
Livni's announcement that she will be running in the upcoming elections may actually strengthen this camp rather than weaken it. As opposed to Shelly Yachimovich and Yair Lapid, who are focusing on the social-economic issue, Livni is fully dedicated to the political issue. It's possible that one of the lessons many in the Israeli public have learned is that behind the Pillar of Defense hides a more complicated reality. Peace negotiations must be a continuation of the war in other ways.
The international reality may also confirm the assumption that Livni's political message could be relevant in the next four years. The axis which orchestrated the ceasefire with Hamas ranges between Mohammed Morsi and Barack Obama. They can both be the axis that will want to orchestrate the continuation of the peace process as well. Obama has just been elected for a second term and no longer depends on the Jewish vote. Morsi is hostile to Israel for religious reasons, but needs the US for economic reasons.
As flexible as a contortionist
Tzemach's survey strengthens the notion that Netanyahu will be forming the next government, even if it points to a decline in the power of the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu merger. The dilemma facing the prime minister is which kind of voters should he turn to in order to bolster his party in the upcoming elections. Should he take a turn towards the extreme right in a bid to take votes from Naftali Bennett, or turn to the center to grab some of Livni's votes? Netanyahu will have to decide which of these two people he is more concerned about.
On the right lies in wait Bennett, who is a Netanyahu with a kippa – a 40-year-old successful businessman who is joining politics more or less at the same age that the prime minister became a Knesset member. He too served as an officer in the Sayeret Matkal elite unit. They both have charismatic media skills and were chosen to head their parties following a sweeping and stimulating campaign.
On the other side we have Livni, who is also competing for votes in the electoral twilight zone between Netanyahu and the political Center. The Likud's newly elected rightist list may push moderate right-wing votes towards her. Livni is Ariel Sharon's real successor in Kadima. Although she doesn't possess his leadership power, she does have his credibility, something which Shaul Mofaz is lacking. Yachimovich and Lapid are competing for the votes of Israelis who supported Labor and Shinui in the past.
Netanyahu's ideological body is as flexible as a contortionist. In the 1996 elections, he realized that his victory would only be guaranteed through the votes of the political Center and announced that he is committed to the decisions made by the Rabin government in the Oslo Accords. If he thinks his victory in the upcoming elections will be guaranteed through the political Center, we'll see a pacifist Netanyahu in an emotional bid to Mahmoud Abbas to meet in order to advance the peace process. If the polls make it clear to him that he needs the votes of the Right, we'll see a militant Netanyahu visiting settlements and declaring that the construction boom will continue.
Livni's return to the political race may not create an alternative to the Netanyahu government, but it may create an alternative to the policy of the Netanyahu government.