Do it Livni, for the sake of Israel

Ben-Gurion, Dayan and Rabin all did things they didn’t like for Israel’s greater good. The Kadima leader should follow suit.

Livni and Netanyahu 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Livni and Netanyahu 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In February 1955 a delegation of political leaders headed by Golda Meir traveled to kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev. They entered the hut of David Ben-Gurion, who had resigned from all his official positions the year before. They informed him that Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon had been forced to resignand requested that Ben-Gurion replace him in former PM Moshe Sharett’s government.
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However Ben-Gurion disliked Sharett and opposed his policy. Under normal conditions he would never have accepted to serve under Sharett. But these weren’t normal conditions. Israel was facing imminent danger of being attacked by the Arab nations who were thirsty for revenge following their defeat in the Independence War.
“I was overcome,” Ben-Gurion records in his diary, "defense and the army precede everything.” And so, for the sake of Israel, Ben-Gurion bit the bullet and joined Sharett’s government.
In May 1967, president Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt deployed his armor in Sinai, expelled the UN peacekeepers, closed the Straits of Tiran, signed military alliances with Syria and Jordan and threatened to annihilate Israel. Lt. Gen (res.) Moshe Dayan volunteered to serve in the army as head of the Southern Command under Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen Yitzhak Rabin, whom Dayan didn’t admire, to say the least. Dayan is reported to have said to his closest friend, former Mossad chief Meir Amit, that he was ready to enlist “even as a private.” The country was in a dire state and so, for the sake of Israel, Dayan was ready to take any fighting position. (Days later, Dayan was appointed defense minister.)
In 1988, when Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir asked the Labor Party to join his government, many Labor activists revolted in a tumultuous meeting of the party’s central committee. They described the proposed move as a political suicide and a betrayal of Labor’s vision and principles. However the party leaders, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, were not swayed. “The situation is serious,” Rabin said. “I don’t have a spare country. We must join the government.” And join they did; against their political interests, but for the sake of Israel.
Today, Israel faces graver crises. Iran is becoming a nuclear power while an impotent world watches or applies ineffective sanctions. The specter of an Islamic front that may include Iran, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Hamas, Hizbullah and even Iraq and Jordan, looms on the horizon. The process of delegitimizing Israel, initiated by the Palestinians and supported by a growing number of European states, is gaining steam. The United States is turning a cold shoulder towards the Jewish state. And the peace process is blocked.
In such a situation, any Israeli leader who cares about their country would support creating a national unity government. Sadly, this is not the opinion of opposition leader Tzipi Livni. It seems that Livni is primarily concerned with toppling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet. There are frequent meetings in which Netanyahu, President Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and many prominent Kadima leaders try to persuade Livni in joining the cabinet, but she continues to refuse. Initially Livni claimed her refusal was because Netanyahu didn’t want to accept a two-state solution. And indeed, even when he voiced his acceptance at the 2009 Bar-Ilan university speech, Livni remarked cynically that Netanyahu may have said it but he didn’t mean it. In addition, Livni also dismissed Netanyahu’s planned settlement freeze as a “slight hand of trick.” Ten months later, she blasted the expiration of the “trick.”
Livni disclosed to her close friends her fears that if she joined the government she would be given only a minor role. This is a far cry from the likes of Moshe Dayan who was ready to be a military truck driver in May 1967.
Israel needs leaders who can rise above petty political maneuvers and fully identify with the nation. We desperately need a more moderate, centrist government. We cannot continue on with a government that repeatedly yields to the settlers and the religious right. A government with Likud, Labor and Kadima as its backbone will be powerful and wise enough to withstand the pressures from the extreme right while at the same time rejecting some of the more absurd ideas of the extreme left.
But Livni will be satisfied with nothing less than Netanyahu’s head on a platter. Her position reeks of egomania; even though Kadima gained more seats in the Knesset,  Livni cannot forgive Netanyahu for becoming prime minister
Petty vengeance aside, what will be with Israel? Livni assures us that there’s no need to worry: Kadima will offer a safety net to the government if it chooses the direction of peace. This of course is absolute nonsense. What Israel needs today is not a safety net. It needs bold and moral leaders in the highest spheres of power. I have no doubt that were Kadima to join the government, it would have a decisive influence on its policy.
Livni is faced with doing something she really doesn’t like. But maybe its time she did it anyway. If not for her, then for the sake of Israel.
The writer is a former Labor Party MK and the official biographer of David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres.