Israel ex-opposition leader Livni quits parliament

Associated Press Modified: May 1, 2012 at 8:15 am •  Published: May 1, 2012

JERUSALEM (AP) — Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced her resignation from parliament on Tuesday, weeks after she was ousted as opposition leader, in a move that could shake up Israeli politics ahead of widely expected national elections.

Livni, a one-time chief peace negotiator who is widely respected internationally, vowed to remain active in politics. She has been rumored to be considering joining a new centrist party being formed by popular former TV anchorman Yair Lapid.

"I leave at this stage, but I'm not leaving public life," Livni said. "The citizens of Israel deserve more than the current policy."

Just a few years ago, Livni was one of the country's most popular politicians. A founder of the centrist Kadima Party, she served as foreign minister from 2006 to 2009, a time when she was Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians. That experience gained her respect in international circles and helped land her on lists of the world's most influential women compiled by such publications as Time, Forbes and Newsweek.

But in her three years as opposition leader, she faced heavy criticism for what was widely seen as an ineffective term. Kadima, which won 28 seats in 2009 elections, making it the largest party in parliament, has plummeted in opinion polls and is only expected to win about a dozen seats, if that, in the next vote.

Last month, Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli military chief, trounced Livni in internal elections for Kadima's leadership, setting the stage for her departure.

By leaving the door open to continued involvement in political life, Livni's comments were likely to fuel more speculation that she would be joining Lapid's new "Yesh Atid" or "There is a Future" party. She did not elaborate on her specific plans.

Speaking to reporters at the Knesset, or parliament, Livni said the people of Israel "deserve more" than what the current leadership has given. With peace talks deadlocked for the past three years, she accused the government of ignoring the Palestinians.