Rattling the Cage: Livni's the One

The peace camp's new great white hope has arrived.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
One by one, the great white hopes of the Israeli peace camp, the leaders or contenders for national leadership with left-leaning ideas, turn out to be huge disappointments. Ehud Barak has become a cross between Dr. Strangelove and Donald Trump. Amir Peretz revealed himself to be a power freak and a blowhard. Shlomo Ben-Ami came to the conclusion that Israel didn't deserve him. The only exception is Amram Mitzna, who has gotten only better since leaving national politics, taking on the job of mayor of Yeruham and basically saving that isolated Negev town. I'd love him to be prime minister, but he doesn't have the killer instinct necessary to get elected. Israel's loss, Yeruham's gain. All these politicians, of course, are with the Labor Party, Israel's traditionally exclusive source of great white hopes - i.e. peacenik social democrats who have the potential to get elected prime minister. But that's finished now. The Labor Party under Barak isn't a party of peace and social democracy, it's a party of militarism and millionaires. If Labor ever finds the guts to get rid of him and choose a chairman with a speck of humanity in his person and politics, it may produce another leader worthy of the peace camp's support. Until then, that party has nothing to say to any liberal voter - or any other voter, as the polls seem to be bearing out. There is, however, still hope, still one great white hope remaining for the Left: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. I'm waiting for the crowds that used to fill Kings of Israel (now Rabin) Square to get behind her, to generate a little enthusiasm, to realize that she's got what we're looking for in a leader. She's very popular among moderates, but the Left, I guess, is too insular to get excited about her. Livni belongs to the wrong party, and she comes from an even worse one. She's a Likud princess, for God's sake. She still hasn't gotten over the Altalena. How can we get excited over such a character? THIS IS the Israeli peace camp's myopia. It's too bad, because we've been shuffling around for most of the last eight years, complaining that the country has moved so far to the Right, that the only thing anybody believes in anymore is military force, and that politics has gotten too corrupt to care about anymore. (This last complaint isn't limited to the Left, of course.) All this, I think, should only accentuate Livni's appeal - she's not only the best of the current contenders, she's the only good one in an otherwise miserable field. Look at her competition: Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Barak. Three glowering, doomsaying, saber-rattling pills. Three know-it-all, trigger-happy, good ol' boys. I've never been one to favor more women in politics (or fewer), but when the men in the race remind me of 15-year-old boys flexing their muscles in the mirror, competing to see who can puff out his chest the most, then Livni's femininity alone makes her seem the mature candidate, the wisest, the most trustworthy. If Netanyahu, Mofaz and Barak are Israel's idea of what it means to be a strong leader, to be a man, then I'd say Israel ought to try letting a woman run the show. She was the only good minister in an otherwise miserable cabinet during the Second Lebanon War - the only one who called for ending the war after the first, successful week, for quitting while we were ahead. She's the only contender who doesn't sound like she's in a hurry to bomb Iran. (Interior Minister Meir Shetrit has gone much further, calling it a "megalomaniacal, reckless idea," but he has no chance in the September 17 Kadima leadership primary, which is effectively between Livni and Mofaz.) She's also the only contender who has the ear of the Palestinian leadership. In terms of the territory she's willing to concede in return for peace with the Palestinians - and with the Syrians - I think she would fit comfortably in the ranks of Peace Now. She is less sanguine about Arab intentions than Peace Now, and I think she's right to be. Unfortunately, though, she has little or nothing to say about settlement expansion and IDF brutality against Palestinians, which is where Peace Now could be her example. The other legitimate knock against her is that she has little or nothing to say about poverty. NO, LIVNI is not an ideal candidate for the Left, but she has certain qualities that Israeli leftists, rightists and centrists are all searching for in a prime minister: Integrity. Conviction. She doesn't insult your intelligence when she talks. It's very hard to imagine her taking a nickel that wasn't hers. These are qualities associated with the old Betar tradition of Jabotinsky and Begin, the tradition she comes out of. Imagine if Menachem Begin, or Benny Begin for that matter, had had a change of heart and become a dove - a wary dove, but a dove nonetheless. That's the way I see Tzipi Livni. Obviously, she could turn out to be one more great white hope that failed. But as things stand, she could become Israel's prime minister very soon. She could win an election against Netanyahu. For Israeli peaceniks, after what we've been through for the last eight years, her candidacy and the potential it carries ought to be cause for celebration.