Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni announced her resignation from Israel's parliament yesterday with a withering attack against the current leadership, warning that its policies had placed Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state "in mortal danger".
Ms Livni, ousted as leader of the opposition over a month ago, formally handed in her resignation amid growing speculation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will call early elections, probably for the autumn.
Her exit was anticipated after her defeat in the centrist Kadima party primaries at the hands of her deputy, Shaul Mofaz, but she said she would not retire from public life, raising the possibility that she would run in the next elections.
Ms Livni, respected in the West for her pro-peace credentials, accused the government of failing to show real leadership, allowing the peace process to slip from Israel's agenda, and warned that there was "an immediate and urgent need to reach a permanent settlement with the Arab world and the Palestinians". She said: "Israel lives atop a volcano. The world clock is ticking. The existence of a Jewish and democratic state is in mortal danger." Ms Livni is among the few mainstream politicians committed to a peace deal with the Palestinians, an issue that has been sidelined by talk of the threat of a nuclear Iran.
The 53-year-old was until recently one of Israel's most popular politicians after serving as foreign minister between 2006 and 2009, and as chief negotiator with the Palestinians.
Since taking power in 2009, Mr Netanyahu's government has publicly endorsed a two-state solution, but is widely seen as bearing the brunt of responsibility for a deadlock in peace talks.