“I am leaving politics but I will not let Israel abandon the hope for peace,” a tearful Livni told a televised news conference in Tel Aviv.
“These past years have been hard for me and for the things I believed in … peace became a dirty word, and democracy is in danger,” she said, citing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of legal authorities conducting corruption probes against him and attacks he has made on the local media.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.
The 60-year-old said she was bringing her centrist Hatnua party to “an end … knowing I did all I could for my beloved state and to unite the forces that would fight for it. It’s not up to me anymore.”
A former peace negotiator with the Palestinians, Livni won recognition abroad for her part in US-brokered talks that aimed to end the decades-old conflict and which collapsed in 2014.But her career has foundered in recent years, along with the Middle East peace process. The United States plans to present a new peace plan after Israel’s April 9 election, although expectations of a breakthrough are low.
Opinion polls have shown that Hatnua was expected to win no seats in parliament in the election in which the right wing, led by Netanyahu’s Likud party, looks likely to prevail.
Hatnua had been part of the biggest left-wing faction in parliament, the Zionist Union, together with the Israeli Labor party.
But in January the alliance, which led the opposition, ended after Labor head Avi Gabbay dumped Livni on live television as he announced he was dissolving the partnership.
The Peace Now NGO, which is critical of Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank, regretted the departure “of a brave voice in favor of the two-state solution.”
Tel Aviv-born Livni has long been a leading figure in Israeli politics and among its most powerful women.
She was first elected to parliament in 1999 as part of the right-wing Likud party, but would later shift to the center, believing Israel must separate from the Palestinians to preserve a Jewish majority in the country.
She held various ministerial roles, including serving as foreign and justice ministers.