By Dr. Abdul
Obviously, not many would believe she will or gather courage to do so. That is the political philosophy of Jewish leaders right form the day they established a Jewish State Israel in 1947 by annexing the Palestinian land with the support of UK, UN, USA and other agencies. And that is how the leadership is groomed by the elders in Israel with an “only Israel” bent to suit the national terror agenda of Israel, resulting in endless annexations and settlements in Palestine and continuous genocide by the Jews with an overt and shameless US backing. Strangely enough, there is a strong perception that even some Arabs themselves oppose the Palestine cause, though such arguments sound funny.
Israel occupies and controls the Palestinians, their lands, resources, economy, taxes and roads as well as the Palestine movements. Israeli arrogance, as a hallmark of its democracy plank, is revealed in its continuous settlement projects on Palestinian soil. While Israel itself behaves like a rogue state, it calls the innocent Palestinians the “terrorists”. The US never cares to attack Israel for its aggression, as it did when Iraq invaded Kuwait. In August, Israel approved construction of 400 new homes in a Jewish neighborhood in annexed east Jerusalem and invited bids for construction of another 416 settler homes in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli watchdog Peace Now has reported that the construction of settlements – viewed as a major obstacle to reaching a peace deal – has nearly doubled since 2007.
Israel now is more worried about Iran than its illegal settlements in Palestine. Israel seems panicked with Iranian “threat” and absence of fresh sanctions as part of economic terrorism unleashed on Tehran. If not a usual Israeli bluff, the new radar, which could cut the response time of Israel’s Arrow system, designed to intercept incoming missiles was launched last week along with some 120 American crewmen and has been set up at the Nevatim air base in the Negev desert. The system can pick up a ballistic missile shortly after launch. But that does not make Israel secure if it continues to occupy Arab lands, kill the Palestinians, block the routes from Palestine to outside world.
Right now, Israel is awaiting a new government, the Palestinians are seriously divided, and President Bush is looking for an agreement, if not a Palestine state, by the end of the year.. Having last week replaced Ehud Olmert as the leader of Kadima, the largest party in the Israeli Knesset, Tzipi Livni has accepted an invitation from the president Shimon Peres to form a new government. The request followed the resignation on Sept 21 of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who faces several corruption inquiries. He denies any wrongdoing, but police have recommended he be indicted over two of the inquiries – allegations that he misused cash payments from a US businessman, and accusations that he double-billed government agencies for trips abroad.
Continued Israeli settlement construction and Israeli security concerns have clouded Middle East peace negotiations. Both Palestinians and Israelis have expressed doubt about achieving an accord before Bush leaves office. As late as last month Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held out hope of talks succeeding. “God willing, with the goodwill of the parties, and the tireless work of the parties, we have a good chance of succeeding,” Rice said after seeing Israeli and Palestinian leaders and summoning top negotiators for a joint status report.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s achievement in office has been listed as direct talks with the Palestinians, indirect negotiations with Syria and a steady economy despite global financial turmoil. A US-Israeli strategy coerced the PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas to dismiss the elected Hamas government and seize control of the Gaza Strip, leaving West Bank of the Fatah control. Engineered by Israel, a war broke out in 2006 in south Lebanon – from where Israel had also since partially withdrawn.
The Kadima party was formed nearly three years ago by the then Prime Minister and leader of centre-right Likud party, Ariel Sharon. He brought left-of-centre figures together with Likud members willing to split off in support of his policy of withdrawing settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. There are many who followed Sharon from Likud, because the Likud alternative, Binyamin Netanyahu, is a “fake” with dubious morals. Olmert’s ratings have plummeted amid the corruption investigations which forced him to announce plans to step down.
Kadima represents a “new political paradigm” and has successfully carved out a centrist niche. Coalition needs 61 for majority. Current coalition (67 seats): Kadima: 29; Labour: 19; Shas: 12; Pensioners party: 7. Other parties: Likud: 12; Yisrael Beitenu: 11; National Union-National Religious Party: 9; United Torah Judaism: 6; Meretz: 5; Arab parties: 10.
Livni met Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who is head of Labour Party, the second largest parliamentary bloc, to negotiate a possible partnership. Several right-of-centre parties have called for early elections, arguing that any coalition formed by Ms Livni would not offer stable government.
Sharon’s protégé ? :Livni’s Profile
1983: Resigned from Mossad to marry and study law
1999: Elected as MP for Likud party
2005: Joined newly formed Kadima party
Ms Livni has generally kept a low media profile, leading some to consider her somewhat cold and aloof. She has tried to keep her family out of the limelight, but is married to Naftali Spitzer, who owns an advertising agency. She completed her military service, and went on to complete a four-year stint in the intelligence agency Mossad in her early 20s.Little is known about her espionage assignments, except that some of her work involved living in Paris. She later practiced as a lawyer for a decade before entering politics.
Tzipora Malka Livni, 50, who has won the vote to become leader of Israel’s ruling Kadima party, was born raised in Tel Aviv, and has been described as sporty, intelligent and a tomboy during her school days. Tzipi has come from relative political obscurity to within sight of the prime ministership within just 10 years. Ms Livni, a lawyer and mother of two, has moved from a strongly Zionist nationalist background to become a passionate advocate of a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians.
Right-wing background has molded her political understanding. Becoming a proponent of unilateral disengagement and the formation of a Palestinian state was a major ideological transition for Ms Livni. Her Polish-born father Eitan was a key figure in the Jewish underground movement, the Irgun. It fought British rule in Palestine before Israel was founded in 1948, and is best known for its attack on the King David Hotel in 1946, in which 91 people died. But while she was raised on the dream of a “greater Israel” in a land including the entire West Bank, she came to believe co-existence with the Palestinians was necessary for Israel to survive as a democratic state.
Ms Livni’s relatively short parliamentary career began when she was elected to the Knesset in 1999 for the right-wing Likud party. She was a protégé of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who in 2001 named her minister for regional development.
Other ministerial portfolios followed – immigrant absorption, housing and construction, justice and later foreign affairs. She became a close adviser to Sharon and in 2005 helped to broker his controversial pull-out of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. When he left the Likud party, which was split over the disengagement issue, to set up the Kadima party in the autumn of 2005, Ms Livni went with him.
Ms Livni remained foreign minister under Sharon’s successor, Olmert, throughout the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006. There have been suggestions she was largely frozen out of military-political decision-making during the war, although she was very involved in negotiating UN resolution 1701 which ended the 34-day conflict.
Olmert was heavily criticized for the handling of the war, which was later condemned as an indecisive, badly managed campaign, carried out by ill-prepared forces. Since November 2007, Livni has been deeply involved in talks with the Palestinian Authority aimed at a deal for a Palestinian state by January 2009. In 2006, she told the New York Times: “I believe, like my parents, in the right of the Jewish people to the entire land of Israel. But I was also raised to preserve Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people and to preserve democratic values.”
Livni replaces party Chief Ehud Olmert, who resigned over corruption allegations. As anticipated, on the heels of Olmert’s formal resignation as prime minister, Ms Livni has been asked to form a new coalition government.
Challenges for Livni
President Shimon Peres has been holding consultations with a number of parties, inviting opinions on who the leaders wanted to see as prime minister or whether they were seeking early elections. A former spy and presently the foreign minister in charge, Ms Livni would deliver the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to safety by settling the long pending Palestine establishment issue. But she must be shrewd enough to care that the US-Israeli strategists might not harm her as well, like they did to Ariel Sharon, bedridden in coma, possibly as a punishment for “forgetting the expansionism cause” of the Jews.
Because of the terms of the talks, she is unable to reveal her current position on final status issues, such as borders and the fate of Jerusalem. She is, however, seen as being strongly opposed to an agreement that gives any ground on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. Ms Livni was opposed to the 1993 Oslo accords partly because they left the most contentious issues unresolved. And she is still said to be opposed to a suggested “shelf agreement” amid pressure for an interim document to be signed before US President George W Bush and Olmert leave office. She has to unify her coalition first.
If Ms Livni is successful in building an administration, she should be able to govern until elections in 2010. Some say she’s honest, but she is widely criticized for her lack of experience in security and politics. Opinion polls suggest that Likud would benefit from an early poll. Hence the new premier would strive hard to seek “adjustments” with coalition partners, including on Palestine issue. But she said that if she failed to do so, she would call an early election. And it is the battle for the centre ground that will loom large as the new leader tries to form a coalition, and takes the party to early general elections if he or she fails.
If Livni fails, a fresh general election will probably be called for the start of next year. But there are many, including key figures within Kadima, who believe Ms Livni is the party’s only hope for survival. Kadima might get more seats with Livni. Kadima means ‘forward’, but Olmert feels the party is going backwards.
Olmert is now the caretaker prime minister while Ms Livni tries to form the new government. Ms Livni now has 42 days to form a coalition and has quickly urged Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu to join a national unity cabinet – a call the Likud leader had rejected before. Livni needs to build a coalition representing 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament.
Quartet: Sabotage on Palestine?
The Annapolis process launched by the US in November 2007 was meant to herald a new dawn for the Middle East peace process, but conditions for Palestinians, which it was meant to improve, have worsened since peace talks recommenced under US sponsorship in 2007. The Bush administration wanted the November 2007 peace summit at Annapolis to lead to a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians before it left office but this is looking increasingly unlikely with both USA and Israel playing dirty games.
The key international players trying to promote peace in the Middle East meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday as the U.N. Security Council opens a high-level debate on Israeli settlements. The so-called Quartet — U.N, the USA, the EUnion and Russia — is meeting at a difficult period in the region. Quartet members attended an Iftar with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab partners on Friday night. Ban also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sept 25 evening.
The Middle East diplomatic quartet, makes special efforts to support Israel and condemned “acts of terrorism” against Israelis; it has pressed Israel and the Palestinians to seal a peace deal this year and expressed “deep concern” over continuing settlement expansion by the Jewish state in the West Bank. A ministerial session of quartet ended with a call on the parties “to make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.”
A report was issued ahead of a Quartet meeting in New York on 26 Sept said the Quartet of international powers has “lost its grip” on the Middle East peace process which it is meant to foster. In a damning report, the agencies say the Quartet – Russia, the US, the EU and the UN – is failing in its mission. “Nearly one year on, we are seeing exponential settlement growth, additional check-points and – because of this – further economic stagnation”. A coalition of 21 aid agencies – including Oxfam, Save the Children, Care, Cafod and World Vision – warned that the peace process would fall apart unless the Quartet made swift and dramatic progress towards its goals.
The Quartet has fundamentally failed to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground. There has been no change in a number of the 10 main objectives set by the Quartet to help improve the daily lives of the Palestinians and in five of them an actual deterioration. Unless the Quartet’s words are matched by more sustained pressure and decisive action the situation will deteriorate still further. The Quartet has totally failed to hold Israel to account for expanding the settlements on occupied land. Time is fast running out. There has been no immediate response from the Quartet, whose representative in the region is former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Unless there is a swift and dramatic improvement, it will be necessary to question what the future is for the Middle East Quartet.
On 26 Sept, the U.N. Security Council held an open debate at the ministerial level on the ongoing Israeli settlement building in disputed territory. Saudi Arabia requested the debate to coincide with the General Assembly, which has brought a host of world leaders to New York. At a Security Council debate specially convened on the issue formally called for by Saudi Arabia, Arab countries on 26 Sept Friday slammed Israel over its settlement expansion policy. “Settlement makes the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible,” Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said during the council debate.
In a cleaver move, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shifted the focus from the settlement issue to appease her Jewish friends who throng around White House, and instead urged Arab countries to “consider ways they might reach out to Israel. She added that the Arab world needed to fully understand that “Israel belongs to the Middle East and will remain” in the Middle East, but US wants to make it the dominant terror state in the region. “Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas told the council that the Israeli settlement blocs “will not allow for the emergence of a viable Palestinian state because they divide the West Bank into at least four cantons.” “How can I convince my people of the necessity of peace with Israel when settlement construction continues?” he added.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country currently chairs the European Union, meanwhile restated the EU view that Israeli settlements, “wherever in the occupied Palestinian territories, are illegal under international law.” Israeli President Shimon Peres told the General Assembly in his address on Sept 24 that despite “stagnation and regression and failure” in the peace process, “Israelis and Arabs are marching toward peace.” One does know if he could also joke.
At one point Israel announced withdrawal of forces and settlements form Palestine. But the unifying banner of “unilateral disengagement” now droops at half mast. A near-fatal stroke has left Sharon in a coma, but it could not be ascertained if that had indeed been a natural development or some ploy to make his voice silent on Palestine. Or, was it US-Israeli game plan to thwart any Palestine move? Many hope Ms Livni would breathe new life into a political establishment mired in sleaze and dominated by ageing, male, former military figures, although she is widely criticized for her lack of experience. Will any new era with blessings begin now?
The task facing Tzipi Livni, however, is not an easy one. In her nearly two years as Israel’s second ever female foreign minister, she has led the team under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert negotiating with the Palestinian Authority. She remains highly popular with the Israeli public, seen by many as an “Ms Clean” – a fresh alternative to a political establishment dominated by ageing, military males, many of whom have been tainted by corruption. She could use her popularity to settle the Palestine issue and set in motion a new peace wave in the region.
Israel insists that its settlements in Palestine “are not an obstacle to peace.” The only path to Israel’s security is peace and it is time for Israel to understand that it cannot continue to exempt itself from behaving in accordance to international law. It is, first and foremost, about Israeli commitment to prepare their people, who are fed on lies about Arabs and Palestinians, for the price of peace, to accept the true meaning of peace. This will avert any leadership crisis whenever a deal for peace is struck.
Edited at ABC