Many years ago I covered a session of a Likud forum on the 14th floor of Metzudat Ze'ev. At the time it all appeared very important and dramatic. Hence getting to a phone quickly was crucial, especially given the Post's uniquely early deadline. Those were pre-cellular and cyber-tech times. Moreover, as Murphy would have it, everything seemed jinxed just when pressure was highest. It was on that eventful day - of all days - that the dilapidated building's antiquated, always anyway exasperatingly slow and eerily creaky elevator gave out altogether.
Reaching a land line meant descending all 14 floors on foot (after an excruciating climb in the first place) and then somehow clambering back yet again. That was when Eitan Livni came to my aid. Then a leading party functionary and Knesset member, he motioned to me silently and led me hush-hush to his upper-story office, which he put - telephone facilities and all - at my exclusive disposal.
With paternal solicitousness he even brought me tea, imploring, however, that I not whisper a word of his kindness to anyone. "This office is off-limits to lefties," he winked, but then solemnly underscored the sentiment as he exited, shutting the door behind him: "The toe of any lefty, of anyone who betrays Eretz Yisrael, will never enter this room."
His daughter Tzipi has given me more than a few occasions, over the past decade of her meteoric political rise, to ponder whether her doting dad would have allowed her into that hallowed ideological sanctuary. By his criteria, she unquestionably deserved to be barred.
Tzipi didn't make her way up the Likud hierarchy via the sluggish party headquarters elevator. So much more politically adept than her father, and unencumbered by his articles of faith, she soared to the top through expedient attachment to the highfliers' coattails.
An unremarkable backbencher, she conveniently became Ariel Sharon's earliest pro-disengagement groupie. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Her effective speaking style - unfailingly sanctimonious and fortified by yuppie business-like, authoritative-sounding cadences - served him well. Concomitantly, the spotlight he offered her catapulted anonymous Tzipi to prominence ahead of all those crowding into the Likud's groaning rusty elevator.
UNSURPRISINGLY, Tzipi and Arik together ditched the troublesome Likud for the ostensibly sparkling new Kadima model. Her principles proved every bit as few, flexible and expendable as her patron's. She gloried in supposed squeaky cleanliness but uttered not a syllable about Sharon's corruption, nor that of any of her Kadima fair-weather friends. Her lack of experience held Tzipi back from embarking on diplomatic dead-ends as much as Amir Peretz's strategic amateurism prevented him from pompously parading as Napoleon reincarnate.
For as long as it was useful, she didn't get in Ehud Olmert's way - again a very mutually beneficial arrangement. It all came apart, of course, when Olmert messed up. Tzipi was every bit as culpable, not having opposed his slipshod management of the Second Lebanon War in real time, when it actually mattered. Protestations of innocence in retrospect ring hollow.
In any case, hanging around Olmert grew detrimental, while dumping him can theoretically propel her to the very top, without that proverbial elevator. Yet in essence Tzipi is everything Olmert is - only lots worse. Like him, she unthinkingly chants the inane "land for peace" mantra, regardless of irrefutable evidence that retreat - especially of the Lebanese and Gazan unilateral variety - brings bloodshed, not tranquility.
Like him she remained apathetic toward the Hizbullah rocket arsenal in the north and the Kassam barrages of the south. She docilely subscribed to the fashionable concept of abiding a "low-intensity conflict" in lieu of defeating the enemy (a term absent from her parlance).
The logical upshot was to assert that there can be no "military solution," only "diplomatic deals," like UN Resolution 1701 - for which Tzipi proudly claims credit, despite admitting that it failed to return the abducted reservists or stem Hizbullah's massive rearmament. By extolling 1701, Tzipi advocates our collective self-deception - up until the next war's bloody toll.
Tzipi is a prime example of Israel's culture of bluff, of bamboozling our own selves. That was Olmert's cardinal wartime sin. He was afraid of winning because victory unavoidably meant conquest of the very areas from which Katyushas were rained on Israeli civilians. IDF units drilled long and hard for specifically that mission, but they weren't deployed because "occupation" became a word we taught ourselves to dread. Thus was born the attempt to do the job from the air, without setting foot beyond the border. When that didn't work, untrained reservists were irresolutely and pointlessly sent in and out of terrorist strongholds.
Whenever the hapless pawns were thus dispatched - halfheartedly, without rhyme or reason, without preparation or logistical underpinning - they paid with their lives for governmental vacillation. The battle could have been won had the will been there, but it wasn't. Tzipi, who was, didn't expose the sham. Instead she promoted even greater pretense in the image of that fraudulent 1701 facade.
If anything, Tzipi is part of the problem, not the solution. Indeed, she's the problem's very embodiment. Her record personifies sloganism in place of values, the search for facile formulas instead of facing up to grueling challenges, the unconscionable camouflage of reality as a means to reaping PR rewards, precedence for personal prospects rather than the honorable wait for the elevator to the political apex.
The cogent question perhaps isn't whether Eitan Livni would have let his daughter into his office, but whether she'd at all judge it prudent to step into such a Zionist den, where fighting doggedly against the odds wasn't deprecated.