woensdag 29 oktober 2008

Tzipi Livni verdient te winnen

Is Tzipi Livni de Israelische Barack Obama?
Ze lijkt wel te staan voor verandering, voor een nieuwe en eerlijker politiek. Helaas krijgt ze geen grote massa's op de been met bevlogen toespraken, maar ze wekt wel degelijk hoop en enthousiasme bij een deel van de Israëli's die het eeuwige gesjacher (excusez le mot), de stagnatie in het vredesproces en de corruptie zat zijn.
Misschien had ze toch moeten proberen een 'kleine coalitie' te vormen met de Arbeidspartij, de Gepensioneerdenpartij en Meretz, met gedoogsteun van de Arabische partijen. Hopelijk krijgt ze na de verkiezingen een tweede kans, want ze verdient te winnen.

She deserves to win
By Yoel Marcus - Haaretz
Last update - 08:20 28/10/2008

A few hours before her meeting with President Shimon Peres, I told Tzipi Livni over the phone that I was thinking of calling my next column "Integrity and naivete." Her response was immediate and unequivocal: "I'm not exactly naive. I know very well that there's a price that, if you aren't willing to pay it, you aren't worthy of being what you are."

So why, I asked, didn't you use the nine days you had left for forming a government? Once again, she responded quickly: "There are moments when dragging things out would not only not help, but would disgust all those involved. When you put not only money, but also the peace process, up for discussion, the time comes when you ask yourself whether you're willing to pay the price."

Sounding confident and determined, she added that she doesn't want to be a prime minister who can be blackmailed; that's a bad message to send to both our enemies and our interlocutors in the peace process. "I say, this far and no further. The election will be advanced? I'm not here to survive, I'm here to carry out my program. I'll run, and I'll win." Just like in Frank Sinatra's song - "I did it my way."

Political pundits and observers discerned a tone of unwarranted arrogance - the first of the seven deadly sins - in her conduct, decisions and statements. Nevertheless, her behavior attests to a different kind of politics. She scorned the horse-trading that was previously the norm when forming a government. To therefore accuse her of failing in the coalition negotiations is idiotic.

She did right to begin the coalition talks with her senior partner, Labor. It is not she who was responsible for the foot-dragging, but Ehud Barak, who for days and weeks didn't know precisely what he wanted. Both Labor's situation and his personal situation are disastrous. Yet instead of talking with her about the key problems involving matters of war and peace, he focused on his own personal status: Becoming the deputy premier to end all deputies, a kind of capo di tutti capi. Passing a law stipulating that even someone who isn't a Knesset member can serve as leader of the opposition.

Barak, even according to his close friends, behaved childishly. Making it a condition that he be a party to all decisions and have veto power was more contrarian than pertinent. Livni admittedly has quite a bit of power in her own right, but she is wise enough to know that on matters of war and peace, Barak is the man to consult and engage. And by dint of circumstances, the same is true of Shaul Mofaz, who also understands security and is a drawing card for Mizrahi voters to boot.

The straw that broke the camel's back was, as always, the negotiations with Shas, which has become used to the fact that every new premier comes begging to it and capitulates to its demands. Last week, I advised Livni via this column to swallow the frog called Shas, because without it, she would have trouble forming a stable government. But the frog had no intention of being swallowed. Now, in hindsight, it is clear that the matter was not in Livni's hands at all: Shas never intended to join her government. Whether this was because of Aryeh Deri, who is due to be released this summer from the stain of moral turpitude, or because Benjamin Netanyahu waved all sorts of promises at them, the fact is that Eli Yishai torpedoed the talks when he demanded that at no stage should the status of Jerusalem be brought up for discussion in negotiations with the Palestinians.

This diplomatic sine qua non on Shas' part is better suited to a partnership with Netanyahu than to a government "ready to divide Jerusalem." It could be that the old Mapainiks would have known how to kiss the 89-year-old rabbi's beard and find a formula that, whether put into writing or only agreed on verbally, would in any case not be honored. But Livni was right to put an end to this circus.

It is not clear how many steps ahead Livni thought, or whether she took into account that instead of a government of "continuity and change," to quote Levi Eskhol's famous statement when he inherited David Ben-Gurion's government in 1963, elections are liable to bring a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu to power. In the Israel of 2008, it is very hard to embark on a different kind of politics. There are rabbis. United Torah Judaism and Degel Hatorah and the rivalries within them are such that if Yaakov Litzman were invited, Avraham Ravitz wouldn't join, and vice versa. The level of cynicism there knows no bounds.

Livni tried to forge a new kind of politics. Was she too rigid? Yes. Her decision to go to the president before she had to, for instance, was hasty. But in any case, there is no doubt that she is at peace with herself. She proved that she acts according to her own conscience, and that she speaks from her heart - something that can definitely be termed a different kind of politics.

What remains to be seen is whether in the coming election, voters will grant her the victory she expects - and which she certainly deserves.

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