10 February 2009

10 February 2009 - Congratulations to Tzipi Livni

It appears that Tzipi Livni and Kadima have won Israel's elections, contrary to what polls suggested and my own expectations. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is a close second. Overall, the right-wing advanced but the center may govern.

Now the coalition game begins. The right could put a governing coalition together, but President Shimon Peres will probably let Livni try first. She failed the last time she tried, but now she has a stronger mandate to lead.

Kadima and Likud--cut from the same cloth before the 2005 disengagement--could reunite in government but will still need one other party, perhaps Ehud Barak's Labour, to form a government if they go for the national unity approach.

There is also another coalition partner to consider--Barack Obama, who will exert a significant influence over Israeli affairs (like it or not). Livni is a good foil for him--better, probably, for the U.S.-Israel relationship than Netanyahu.

It is gratifying--though admittedly somewhat superficial--to observe that Israel has once again chosen to give a woman the chance to lead. In that respect Israel is far ahead of the U.S., and perhaps a more elusive target for the haters.

Best of luck to Livni in forming a government and in leading Israel and the region through the difficult months ahead. She is a relatively new face at a crucial moment. She may yet prove to be a great leader and peacemaker.


At 4:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

umm, our system doesn't really work that way...
you should wait before you post things like this

At 7:31 AM, Blogger Joel said...

If so, please point out where I've erred. I think it should be clear that I consider Obama a "coalition partner" in the figurative sense... And of course I recognize that Livni might not be given the chance to form a coalition after all. In any case, please clarify.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Thermblog said...

According to this guy, the right wing parties are blocking Kadima:


At 10:02 PM, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

You forgot to mention the religious parties. No government was ever formed without their participation. Neither Kadima nor the Likkud can afford to ignore them.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think those of us with a background in the new SA democracy with Helen Zille as leader of the DA naturally enthused with Tzipi Livni's victory. Below is the article I published in my local newspaper.
An Historic Triumph for Israeli Democracy By Rabbi David Hoffman

Bibi Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister from 1996-1999, thought he had the Prime Ministry in Israel’s next government all sewn up, as did the world media. Even if the army vote makes it an outright tie, the perception of Israel and the world will now be that Tzipi Livni won, and she will indeed be considered the winner, precisely because she had already been written off.
Still, Bibi emerged from the election saying he would still be the Prime Minister, because he has a right wing coalition of 65 parliamentary seats, a majority in the 120 seat Israeli Knesset.
His first challenge however is to secure the participation of the now third largest “Israel is our Home” party whose electoral base is among the million immigrants who came to Israel during the death throes of the Soviet Union. Their leader, Avigdor Lieberman, who has a reputation as a “far-rightist” and “ultra-nationalist” (the latter appellation is more suitable), may seek to mainstream his reputation by going with centrist Tzipi Livni and striking a deal to attain electoral and civil reforms that Ms. Livni’s party is also committed to. But if Lieberman should go with Ms. Livni, the Israel Labor party will refuse to recommend that she be empowered to form the next government. The challenge for Ms. Livni, who won the most votes, thus becomes how to continue to promote the “centrality” of her center party.
Americans will have no problem understanding that in actually forming governments in democracies narrowness just doesn’t work, but securing the center does. Our country rejected Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, two very worthwhile individuals, for that very reason, and ever since 1972, American Presidential elections have been contests waged for the center. But it is only since Ariel Sharon formed the centrist party, Kadima, that the political power coming out of Israeli elections has its gravity too, in the center of Israel’s political spectrum. Tzipi Livni’s victory is a stirring reaffirmation of this consolidation of the Israeli political center as also the center of gravity in Israeli politics.
That is why secret negotiations are underway with Bibi Netanyahu to split the cabinet portfolios equally, with Tzipi Livni staying as foreign minister and the Iranian born Shaul Mofaz, replacing Ehud Barak as Defense minister.
For Israelis know how a narrow right wing Israeli government will be greeted by the world and they don’t want that, so for Tzipi Livni’s party to maintain its centrist credentials, she will have to forego the position of Prime Minister. For what Jews have mostly wanted ever since Saul and David established the first Jewish kingdom, is to be left alone to pursue their priestly callings. That is why for finally really being left alone by their Arab neighbors, the majority of Israeli Jews would rather convene around a government which can achieve a two state solution which will work. The Bible does not designate us to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation for nothing! Yes, we have had a few great warriors like Joshua and David, but we don’t remember Abraham so much for his daring Entebbe-like rescue of Lot and his family. Rather, Abraham goes down in history as the greatest peacemaker ever, and for his hospitality to Melchizedek, Abimelech and the angels. The Arabs know this too, which is why the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal expressed surprise at the relative ferocity of Israel’s last foray into Gaza.
Tzipi Livni’s approach to a two state solution is to negotiate it and then let it be a referendum for the people themselves, Israeli and Palestinian. And if there are hiccups along the way, to go back to the negotiations until the issues are resolved.
Not that any of this is going to be easy, but by time the process of forming an Israeli government is completed, don’t be surprised if Bibi Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni are in a Unity Government, with the real power behind the throne being, as it so often is, in the hands of a woman: Tzipi Livni.


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