Earlier this week, Tzipi Livni was ousted as leader of Israel’s Official Opposition. Members of the Kadima Party decisively voted for former IDF Chief of Staff and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz by a margin of 62% to 38%.
Mofaz, who was born in Iran, had narrowly lost to Livni for the Kadima leadership in 2008 following the resignation of Ehud Olmert as Prime Minister. Although Kadima actually won one more seat than Likud in the 2009 Knesset elections, Livni was unable to form a government and Benjamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister for a second time. Since then, Livni has been seen as an ineffectual leader which led to calls for a vote late last year. Although the next Knesset elections are scheduled to occur in the fall of 2013, it is widely believed that Netanyahu will go to the polls before the end of 2012 and the Speaker of the Knesset recently said as much.
On paper, Mofaz would appear be a tougher opponent for Bibi than Livni. However, in recent months Israel’s Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich has gained traction in the polls and could very well benefit from Mofaz’s ascension as more dovish Kadima voters might turn to her. Meanwhile popular TV journalist Yair Lapid launched a new political party earlier this year. But that tells me the opposition is divided and given the tenuous situation with Iran, I think Israeli voters will stick with Bibi. Unless Netanyahu faces the kind of scandal which forced Olmert’s resignation, I think Bibi and Likud have a 99% chance of being re-elected.