Livni Is Back
Livni Is Back Reuters

The entrance of Tzippy Livni into Israel's 2013 parliamentary elections has added yet another  "center" party (only Meretz welcomes the label leftwing) joining Kadima, Yesh Atid and arguably the Labor Party.

This has added to the confusion over what constitutes a center party in Israel. To help provide some clarity, it is necessary to distinguish between major center parties and personal vanity parties.

The major center parties in Israel's political history were the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) in the 1977 elections, the Center Party in the 1999 elections and Kadima, that first appeared in the 2006 elections. What characterized the major center parties was the makeup of their list of Knesset candidates.

These lists were studded with big names and, moreover, names which had been prominently associated with the political left and the political right. There was also a genuine attempt, at least at the outset, to draw a distinction between the leading party of the left (Labor) and the leading party of the right (Likud) or to define a new agenda.

Examples of personal vanity parties are Moshe Dayan's Telem Party in 1981, Ezer Weizmann's Yahad in 1984, and both Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid  and the just announced Livni Movement. Today, after  the head of the ticket, there is a dramatic fall off in the name recognition and political clout of the balance of the list.  

As the DMC is by now ancient history, let us confine ourselves to the Center Party and Kadima. Both parties had heavyweights from the Likud and Labor Parties.

The Center Party had the former Defense Minister Yizhak Mordechai and two bonafide Likud princes –Roni Milo and Dan Meridor. Labor supplied Dalya Rabin, the daughter of Yizhak Rabin and the former Chief of Staff, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak.

Kadima's presumed big bang had Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, Tzippy Livni, Meir Shitrit, Roni Baron and others from the Likud and Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Dalya Itzik from Labor.

If we look at the Lapid and Livni lists, remembering that it is less than a week before the final filing of Knesset lists, and it is obvious that they have had difficulty in attracting big league players for their roster. Whatever their merits, Tzippy Livni is hard put to claim that the likes of Yoel Hason, Shlomo Mula or Dr. Rachel Adato are the making of a dream team. Lapid's acquisitions are Rabbi Shai Piron (Lapid's effort to prove that he is not an observant-Jew-baiter like his father) and former Israel Security Agency head Yaakov Peri.

They have come up short, because heavyweight Center Parties resurface over and over with only a few years grace after  the collapse of the previous experiment. Between DMC and the Center Party we waited some time and then eight years after that came Kadima. Lapid and Livni have tried to pose as centrists, while Kadima is terminal but has not been pronounced clinically dead.

This makes it harder for Lapid and Livni to recruit top tier talent.