Reinforcing the cliché that Israeli elections are never dull, Hatnua head Tzipi Livni shocked the Israeli political community and public on Sunday with her decision to drop out of the upcoming race and retire from political life. Although Livni had already stated she’d consider sitting out the election if subsequent polls showed her falling beneath the electoral threshold thereby depriving the left bloc of necessary votes, it is still quite startling to see her voluntarily depart, given her place as a political mainstay for well over two decades. Despite her accomplishments, it’s likely that many observers will unfortunately chart her last decade of activity as if not an outright failure, then at the very least a series of missed opportunities: her aborted attempts to cobble together a coalition in 2009 paving the way for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s return to power, her ouster from Kadima leadership by Shaul Mofaz, a brief stint as justice minister, and part of a duo that valiantly fought and came close to replacing the prime minister in the 2015 elections. There is no doubt that if her very recent and humiliating expulsion by Labor Chair Avi Gabbay had not occurred, she would likely still be in the midst of campaigning.

With her exit, we witness the end of a legacy of a handful of well-known politicians who were raised and immersed in the right-wing Revisionist ethos that was the foundation of Likud’s worldview, only to break off and move to the center and center-left when it became clear to them that a never-ending Israeli presence beyond the Green Line would ultimately doom the Zionist project. They include Livni, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Kadima chair and former chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, and late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Yet of all of these figures, whether due to disease, criminal activity, or simply political fatigue, Livni outlasted them all. Perhaps this is why a right-wing that had long ago jettisoned its commitment to classical liberalism had made a habit of demonizing Livni, focusing a disproportionate amount of ire on her and painting her as an untrustworthy leftist with no discernable guiding principles. While other politicians followed Sharon to Kadima when he broke to the center and flocked to Likud when it served their political interests, Livni refused to return to the rightist fold and maintained her place on the other side of the political map. For this, she could never be forgiven.

In fact, one of the most oft-repeated accusations hurled against Livni has been her seeming propensity to jump from political party to party, cynically invoking the peace process as means of maintaining some semblance of political power (nor did it particularly endear Livni to some on the left when she joined Netanyahu’s 2013 coalition as justice minister and head of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations). The trope has become so popular on the right that Livni is often portrayed as a poster child for political fence-running. In reality, Livni has hardly been the only figure to change political homes: recall the aforementioned number of Likud members jumping ship to Kadima upon its establishment in 2005 only to return to Likud a number of years later, Amir Peretz’s many exoduses and returns to the Labor Party, and Moshe Kahlon and Avigdor Lieberman’s respective exits from Likud to establish their own parties—to say nothing of the current realignment of politicians and parties during the present election.   And yet despite her many party allegiances, Livni has spent the last decade wedded to the notion of finding a solution to the diplomatic stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians, making it her flagship issue, and discussing the topic incessantly in every available platform regardless of how unpopular and irrelevant it had become in many circles.

But like Moshe Kahlon who has fallen victim to the fickleness of the self-styled Israeli centrist voter, Livni too has suffered electorally not only because of the values she championed but also due to the type of politics she embodied. Disturbed by the deterioration of democratic values on the right, but fearful of what she perceived to be the left’s lack of sympathy for Zionism, Livni has done a far better job of exemplifying the center of the political map in comparison to figures like Yesh Atid/Kachol Lavan’s Yair Lapid who has offered vague policy prescriptions that are often short on substance. The wave of populism so prevalent across the globe had already found its way to Israel a few years earlier, and with it, an increase in polarization that has continued to hollow out the political space to which Livni continued to cling. Between the right’s increasing attacks on democratic norms and demands for full and unequivocal loyalty and the left’s suspicions of her as a mildly reformed rightist whose motivations for partition never seemed ideologically pure enough, Livni found herself ironically cast aside as the ultimate opportunist, standing for nothing but her own political ambitions. The bitter irony, of course, seems to have been lost on those who have missed her almost borderline monomania in discussing separation from the Palestinians.

Ultimately, Livni’s departure from politics may, in the short term, be a blessing in disguise. The votes that would have followed her defunct party into political oblivion will now be used to bolster other members of the center-left bloc. Now free of political considerations (and restrictions), Livni can travel the world, making her case at policy conferences, think tanks, and foreign affairs ministries—something she was already used to doing over the course of the last few years, as a sort of de facto foreign minister providing an alternative to the current coalition’s intransigence. Despite her dramatic speech, however, observers shouldn’t jump to conclusions regarding the finality of her political career. Livni could well be back in a few years with a new and reinvented party, or on the slate of an existing one. For now, she’ll likely engage in countering Netanyahu’s nationalist vision and the ever-increasing skepticism rising in liberal circles towards the Israeli government with a worldview that marries her Zionism with a progressive agenda.