Livni(L) With her US counterpart Condoleeza Rice
By Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal, Political Analyst & Researcher
Following her failure to form a new coalition to replace the outgoing government of Ehud Olmert, Israeli ruling Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni said on October 26 that she would recommend holding an early parliamentary election, rather than surrendering to blackmail politics being indulged in by Israeli coalition leaders. The apparent collapse of coalition negotiations is likely to turn the poll fortunes in favor of Kadima party, seen in Israel and abroad as a crusader for the casue of peace in the region. In a rare show of courage by another Israeli leader, Livni has surmised her predicament: “I will not let them extort me. We will go to elections. When I had to decide between continued extortion and bringing forward elections, I preferred elections.”
Livni is committed to continuing peace negotiations with Palestinians, but Shas is opposed to discussions on the status of Jerusalem. The move is a blow to Ms Livni, but she may still be able to form a minority government. She has the support of the Labour party but is still short of a majority. Ms Livni’s deal with Labour gives her a total of 48 seats in the 120-member Knesset. With 12 seats, Shas is currently the third-largest party and has often played the role of kingmaker in Israeli politics. Shas had asked for only two things, “real financial help for the weak in Israeli society and protection for Jerusalem… which is not merchandise for sale”.
A vote would most likely be held in late January or February, more than a year ahead of schedule. Livni said she was not “here to survive, I’m here to lead,” ruling out her other option of trying to run the country with a government that lacked a strong parliamentary majority. “You can’t extort me. The good of the country is at the top of my agenda.”
Ms Livni could still form a minority government with left-wing Meretz and the Pensioners Party – although talks with the latter are reported to be stalled. She has another 10 days to continue coalition building. Ms Livni was voted head of Kadima after former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would step down in the face of multiple corruption investigations. If she is unable to form a government, President Shimon Peres may ask another MP to try to do so, or call elections.
Ms Livni, currently Israel’s foreign minister, took the leadership of the ruling Kadima party last month after Olmert said he would resign as prime minister following a corruption inquiry. She still has a further week of a presidential mandate to form a government. Livni’s first comments on her failure to form a new government certainly indicate that she intends to fight an election campaign that portrays her as a woman of principle to an electorate disillusioned with multi-party coalition haggling and with a series of graft and other scandals among the elite.
The main obstacle to largely renewing the coalition that has supported Olmert was a refusal of the Jewish religious Shas party to follow Livni. It had sought guarantees she would not agree to share control of Jerusalem with the Palestinians and also wanted higher welfare benefits for its poor constituency.
Although earlier opinion polls showed a big lead for the right-wing opposition Likud of Benjamin Netanyahu, which also opposes much of the peace proposals Livni and Olmert have made to the Palestinians, the situation is likely to change with the emerging scenario when the newly elected leader is expected to hold talks for a coalition government taking a pro-“peace” stand, irritating the hawkish Jews who are keen to retain the occupied territories of Palestinians and continue to kill them by using Israeli terror forces.
“It is remarkable what Israel has achieved in these years,” said an Israeli specialist. But despite 60 years of statehood… “we are still acting like the biblical desert generation, which spiritually and politically strayed off the right path during its 40 years of wandering.” Israel has remained a nation of contradictions and the political hawkish have made it a land of self-contradictions. Opinion polls indicate a lack of direction and a nation of contradictions. Moses, while leading the Israelites through the desert, had to listen to similar contradictions. On the one hand, they yearned for the Promised Land, but on the other they wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt. The Israelites reached the Promised Land in 40 years. But after 60 years in the Promised Land, Israel is still wandering in the wilderness. As result, the political class is totally dismayed at any new development and dislikes any change in the present status quo to illegal occupation, settlements and genocides in Palestine.
The Palestinians have demanded that east Jerusalem – occupied by Israel since 1967 – should be the capital of a future Palestinian state, while Israelis consider the city their own “eternal, undivided” capital. When the premier shows inclination to concede and seek cooperation, the opposition ridicules the move. This has been going on for quite some time now.
Of course, all hopes still have not died down. Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and now the present leader of Kadima Livni have made efforts in taking the torch a bit high to reach a peaceful resolution for a peaceful regional environment. Helpfully, Livni will succeed in her striving for peaceful settlement with Palestinians, among other Arabs and help the Mideast usher in an era of remarkable peace and prosperity.
Livni has also shown the positive side of Israeli policy to seek peace through legitimate concessions. Most likely, she would like to retain her Ms Clean image.