Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni insisted on Sunday that President Shimon Peres choose her to head the next government because her faction won one more seat than Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in last week's general election.
"Kadima won the elections. Twenty-eight [Knesset seats] are more than 27, and the public has ruled in our favor," Livni stated at the party's first meeting since the vote.
Peres is not obligated to choose the leader of the largest party to head the government. Rather it is the party leader most capable of forming a stable majority coalition that by law the president should choose.
The assumption over the weekend was that Peres would choose Netanyahu, since the right-wing secured a majority of Knesset seats in the election.
Newspapers on Sunday morning prepared the public for that reality with headlines reporting that caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had already started consulting Netanyahu on policy moves before the next government takes power.
If Netanyahu is tapped, Likud officials say he would prefer to form a unity government with Livni's Kadima. But Livni and other high-ranking Kadima officials said they would prefer to sit in the opposition, a move that would likely prevent Netanyahu from serving out a four-year term.
In a statement released on Saturday night, Netanyahu berated Livni for putting petty politics and personal ambition ahead of national unity and stability.
"Netanyahu would be willing to accommodate Kadima in order to include it in a unity government led by him, but first Livni must set petty politics aside and place the country's interests first," read the statement.
The statement went on to note that while Kadima may have won more seats than Likud, everyone who voted for the smaller right-wing parties did so assuming Netanyahu would be prime minister, meaning he actually has more public support to lead the nation.