Tzipi Livni is betraying her primary electoral pledge to promote the national interest above any personal or political ambitions. Worse, she is basing her strategy on the premise that under the pressure of events, a narrow Netanyahu government will soon collapse which is tantamount to wishing a plague on all our houses to further her own selfish benefit.
Today, in the midst of a genuine state of national emergency, Livni is brazenly displaying contempt to her constituents, the vast majority of whom passionately yearn for a broad national unity government. She has also deprived us of the opportunity of instituting desperately needed reforms in the electoral system and promoting legislation to bring an end to the exclusive and inflexible haredi control of marriage and conversion. In addition, she has enabled small one-dimensional parties to continue leveraging their sectional interests at the expense of the community.
Livni must regard us as imbeciles when she hypocritically pleads that joining a Netanyahu government would compromise her “political principles.” We are aware that she had no problem in acquiescing to virtually all of Lieberman’s demands when she begged him to support her. The reality is that her party is overwhelmingly dominated not by ideologues, but by pragmatists and yes, opportunists, few of whom would have moral dilemmas in joining a government headed by Netanyahu.
Livni also alleges that her main obstacle against joining the government is that Netanyahu refuses to utter the mantra “two states for two peoples.” Yet, Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his intention to continue negotiations and reiterated his preference not to rule over Palestinians. Besides, as foreign minister, Livni had years of negotiations to adopt a two-state plan. Not only did she fail, but to this day we are still in the dark as to what concessions she offered Mahmoud Abbas behind locked doors.
All we know is that like Hamas, Fatah still adamantly refuses to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, continues to insist on the right of return for Arab refugees, and demand that we retreat to the indefensible ‘67 borders. It is also now abundantly clear that it is only a matter of time before Fatah becomes submerged into Hamas. Would any responsible Israeli political party conceivably endorse the creation of such a terrorist state?
Prophets of doom
In the midst of this maelstrom, we have a new American administration determined to demonstrate progress and “engage” diplomatically with rogue states like Syria and Iran. A nuclear Iran unquestionably poses an acute existential threat to us and Netanyahu is utterly sober when he appeals for unity in the face of the greatest threat confronting Israel since 1948. This is surely a time when all responsible politicians should set aside their differences and create a unity government.
Netanyahu, who has consistently been vilified as an opportunist, must be commended for displaying leadership, acting like a statesman and promoting the national interest. Alas, he is being forced to establish a narrow government which will be dependant on the support of Yisrael Beiteinu and the haredi and small right-wing parties. This is hardly ideal but there is no alternative.
The prophets of doom exuberantly predict that this government will be short lived. They say that the presence of the “extremist” and “racist” Avigdor Lieberman will undermine any chance for a meaningful relationship with the Obama administration even before it gets off the ground. There is also legitimate concern that the financial benefits that Shas may extort for its constituents will impact savagely on the already battered economy.
However, I predict that these doomsday scenarios will not eventuate. There will of course be tensions and conflicts, more likely in relation to domestic rather than external issues. Yet I believe that out of the urge for survival the parties which will form the Netanyahu government will compromise and overcome their differences in order to concentrate on primary objectives. There is a precedent for this. The Rabin government, also with a Knesset majority of only one, succeeded in imposing the Oslo Accords on a bitterly divided nation.
The initial signals suggest that the political parties have already begun adjusting themselves. Despite the frenzied defamation of Avigdor Lieberman, the statements he has been making since the elections suggest that this tough but talented and street smart politician will prove to be a pragmatist in office and overcome his negative image.
I also believe that the haredi and small right-wing parties that will comprise this government will remember from their previous experience how their irresponsible behavior and greed brought down a government. They will not wish to be banished to the opposition.
The first will be to reintroduce genuine deterrence in order to bring an end to the missile attacks in the south, contain terrorism and create an environment of security for the nation. That will be the government’s most immediate challenge and will set the tone for the future.
The second will be to minimize the impact of a backlash from the global economic meltdown which has only now begun impacting on the country.
The third will be to develop a good relationship with the Obama administration. His foremost objective must be to try to achieve consensus on strategies to be adopted to confront the Iranian nuclear threat. To retain US support, Netanyahu will be obliged to tread a delicate path between co-operating harmoniously with the Americans whilst being strong enough to resist demands that could negatively impact on our long-term security. Netanyahu must emphasize that should a Palestinian leader emerge who genuinely supports peace and is able to control terrorism, Israel under such circumstances would endorse Palestinian self rule.
In this arena, the hawkish elements of Netanyahu’s government will need to exercise restraint. They will inevitably be confronted with situations not to their liking. On such occasions they must accept the reality that politics is the art of the possible and reconcile themselves to being flexible and opting not to veto every concession which they disapprove. They will need to learn from the Bolshevik leader Lenin that occasionally it is tactically prudent to take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward. They must avoid repeating the catastrophe that their predecessors inflicted upon themselves and the nation when, unable to achieve all their demands, they brought down the government and paved the way for the disastrous Oslo Accords.
If, notwithstanding a narrow government, Netanyahu succeeds to overcome these challenges, he will establish himself as one of the great leaders of the nation. To achieve this, he will need skill, determination and certainly Divine Providence. We should pray for his success.