Livni should set aside her ego for the national interest

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Our politicians are once again outrageously defying the will of the people. The electorate decisively rejected the former government’s policies of extending unilateral concessions to our adversaries and the inability to adequately defend citizens under continuous missile attack. By a majority of 65 to 44 (excluding the 11 Arab mandates) the people voted in favor of the so-called national camp.

Regrettably, the hideously convoluted electoral system enabled Kadima to obtain one more mandate than Likud. Not because Kadima won the endorsement of the people but because traditional left wing supporters defected in droves from Labor and Meretz and diverted their votes to Kadima.

In contrast, on the assumption that [Likud leader Binyamin] Netanyahu becoming prime minister was a given, many supporters of the national camp diversified their support to the smaller right-wing parties.

For Kadima to suggest that this provided them with a mandate for leadership is absurd. Had there been a direct contest for prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu would indisputably have defeated Tzipi Livni by a margin of at least 2 to 1.

Precisely 12 months ago I wrote a column in the Jerusalem Post arguing that a unity government was desperately needed, not only to cope with external threats but also in order to deal with long overdue reforms to the electoral system and a wide variety of social problems that remained in limbo because of the veto powers of small one-dimensional parties. Today the vast majority of the nation recognizes the critical need for a unity government.

Yet unfortunately we are witnessing a disgraceful repeat performance of politicians, immediately after being elected, ignoring their obligations to their constituents and shamelessly displaying a willingness to promote their petty personal ambitions above the national interest.

To his credit, Netanyahu recognizes the need for a unity government. Despite resentment within his own party and anger from some of his potential coalition partners, he magnanimously offered Kadima an equal number of senior Cabinet portfolios to Likud. Yet Tzipi Livni had the chutzpah to demand a Prime Ministerial rotation as though the electorate was equally divided between those endorsing her policies and those promoted by the national camp. To further complicate matters, Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu tried to leverage his position by playing both parties against each another.

There is thus a real danger that if these self serving intrigues continue, the new government could again become dependant on the whims of small parties motivated exclusively by their own narrow interests. If this happens, the nation would soon be confronted with yet another election.

The next few years may well determine the long-term future of the Jewish state. Our most immediate challenge is the existential threat facing us from a nuclear Iran. That alone demands a broadly based government enabling critical decisions in this area to achieve the widest possible national consensual endorsement.

Netanyahu is pragmatic and will continue peace negotiations. But unlike his predecessors he has pledged that he will not compromise over defensible borders or make further concessions without reciprocity. He is also expected to implement a regime of deterrence needed to protect Israeli citizens.

In this environment, a narrow government would embolden our enemies and intensify the dangers confronting us. In addition, we require a united front in the face of demands that even our friends may seek to impose on us. While there is still hope that the US under Obama will stay the course, there are already disconcerting murmurs emanating from the new Administration which represent cause for concern. They include the lamentable decision to continue US involvement with Durban 2 and a number of recent chilling remarks by Obama’s Middle East Peace Envoy George Mitchell which suggest a major tilt in policy is in the offing. Clearly the new government may be obliged to withstand pressures from friends as well as foes. At such a time it would be disastrous a to have a government in which decisions affecting our complex relationship with the new US Administration were to be determined by a narrow majority subject to veto from small parties.

A broad unity government dominated by the two larger parties would also provide common ground for devising constructive economic policies to minimize the impending fallout from the global financial meltdown without being subject to the traditional extortion from minority parties. Such a government could also introduce the long overdue electoral reforms to stabilize the system and prevent small one-dimensional parties from being able to veto desperately needed changes.

The government could ensure that Israelis who are not halachically Jewish will be enabled to institutionalize their marital bonds. They could also overcome the outrageous barrier to genuine conversions currently being inflicted on the nation by the haredi dominated religious courts. It could review the burgeoning haredi draft exemptions, introduce a form of national service for all Israeli citizens and at the very least, provide benefits to Israelis who serve in the IDF. It could also implement Netanyahu’s commitment to upgrade the educational system and infuse it with greater Jewish heritage and Zionist content.

The problem of the increasing radicalization of Israeli Arabs and their attitude towards the state could be rationally considered. There is nothing “racist” in holding Israeli citizens accountable if they indulge in treasonable activities, especially during a time of war. If this were to be accompanied by an effort to also raise the standard of living of Israeli Arab citizens, such a program would be endorsed by the vast majority of Israelis.

These are only some of the burning issues that only a broadly based unity government could successfully implement.

The bulk of Kadima Knesset representatives comprise of former members of Likud. To use an understatement, their political principles in the past proved to have been extremely malleable and there is absolutely no ideological barrier for the vast majority to find common ground with their former colleagues and join a unity government. How Kadima members who served previously under Netanyahu can refer to their former party colleagues as extreme right wingers is bizarre. If fact, if anything, key party members like Shaul Mofaz and Tzahi Hanegbi would be politically more inclined to the right than the average Likud Knesset member.

This is surely a time for Kadima members to prioritize the national interest and create a broad national unity government which will provide the people of Israel with the leadership to which they are entitled.

Tzipi Livni, you will go down in history as the great spoiler because of an unreasonable personal ego if you reject this opportunity to assume a constructive role and contribute towards achieving desperately needed security and stability for the nation.

It will be an act of national betrayal if you personally torpedo this unique opportunity to create a genuine Zionist national unity government which would at long last be enabled to deal constructively with the burning problems facing the nation both externally and internally. Now is the time for you to stand up and be counted. Do not inflict despair on the people of Israel.

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This column was originally published as a blog entry in the Jerusalem Post

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