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Former Israeli foreign minister Livni left out in political cold

Former Israeli foreign minister Livni left out in political cold
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union addresses attendees at the "Haaretz Q: with New Israel Fund" event at The Roosevelt Hotel in the Manhattan borough of New York City, December 13, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly -
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Andrew Kelly(Reuters)
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By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's main left-wing alliance split apart on Tuesday, leaving one of the country's most prominent politicians, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, out in the cold ahead of an April general election.

The Zionist Union, which was the main opposition party, had been a partnership between the Labour Party led by Avi Gabbay and the smaller Hatnua party headed by Livni. With a stone-faced Livni sitting next to him at a meeting of Zionist Union lawmakers, Gabbay unceremoniously dumped her.

"I hoped and believed this alliance would bring about our blossoming, a real connection and we would complement each other. But the public is smart, saw this is not the situation and distanced itself from us," Gabbay said in a nod to the Zionist Union's weak showing in recent opinion polls.

"Tzipi, I wish you success in the election - in any party you're in," he said, announcing the split on live television.

The move appeared to catch Livni, a former peace negotiator with the Palestinians and current leader of the opposition in parliament, by surprise.

"I'm not responding. I will make my decisions. Thank you," she said, and then left the room.

Opinion polls have predicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will easily win the snap election he called for April 9, taking between 27 to 31 of parliament's 120 seats - enough to lead a right-wing coalition government, despite three corruption investigations against him.

Zionist Union trails far behind Netanyahu's Likud and centrist parties in the polls, which predict it will capture only eight to nine seats compared with the 24 it took in its second-place finish in the previous election in 2015.

Livni, who became a leading advocate of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, entered politics in 1999 as a member of the right-wing Likud party, serving in several cabinet posts and eventually moving to the centre-left as head of the now-defunct Kadima party.

She was foreign minister from 2006 to 2009 and founded Hatnua in 2012, joining up with Labour to establish the Zionist Union for the 2015 ballot won by Netanyahu, now in his fourth term.

(Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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