Kindergarten Politics

Tzipi Livni claims she is practicing a ‘different kind of politics.’ But ever since the results of the recent elections were announced, she has been engaging in ‘kindergarten politics.’


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on March 10, 2009.)

After celebrating an imaginary victory, she now tells the Pirme Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu “repeat after me – two states for two peoples.” If he won’t repeat this slogan, she is not prepared to play. And she has another slogan – the system must be reformed to provide the elected government a full four-year term to execute its plans. By that she means a four-year term for a government that would be headed by her. As for a Netanyahu-led government, she believes it should be brought down as quickly as possible. So now she is headed for the opposition.

In her state of euphoria she seems to have forgotten the very difficult challenges facing the State of Israel in the near future. Her intransigence puts serious constraints on Netanyahu in putting together a coalition. But why should she care? Her announced intention is to bring down the Netanyahu government as quickly as possible. As for the challenges facing the country, they will just have to wait. But they will not wait.

So far we have only experienced the tip of the iceberg of the economic crisis that is coming our way. In the United States this crisis is beginning to take on catastrophic proportions. Israel, whose economy is largely based on exports to the U.S. and other industrialized countries, all of them already deep in recession, cannot possibly escape the avalanche. Only a wise and energetic government economic policy, not giving in to panic and populist sentiments, can mitigate the damage this avalanche is going to cause the economy and the people of Israel. When Livni speaks now of bringing down the elected government in a matter of months, she has simply lost sight of the best interests of the country at this critical time.

But that is not all. The rockets launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip keep falling daily in the south. Operation Cast Lead, for which Livni shares responsibility with Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, not only did not achieve its aim of bringing about a cessation of the rocket fire on Israel, but has also made it exceedingly difficult to now complete the unfinished business the operation left behind. Livni’s statement before the premature retreat of the Israel Defense Forces from the Gaza Strip, that if rockets were to be fired after the retreat, the IDF would return, has turned out to be nothing but an empty threat, another blow to Israel’s deterrent capability. This most difficult problem, daily endangering the lives of Israeli citizens in the south, will not wait. The Netanyahu-led government will have to clean up the mess that was left behind, with or without Livni.

In the north Hezbollah, which had thousands of rockets before the fiasco of the Second Lebanon War, now has tens of thousands rockets, and has reached a dominant position in the Lebanese government while maintaining its own independent military arm. Much of Israel now lives under the threat of Hezbollah-launched rockets, based in Lebanon -a threat that will have to be neutralized by the Netanyahu government. With or without Livni.

And farther north is the threat of impending Iranian nuclear capability. That better not be ignored by the next government. With or without Livni.

“Two states for two peoples” is most certainly not on the agenda in the coming crucial months, and possibly not even in the coming years. In light of developments in the past few years, the Hamas takeover in Gaza and the continued weakness of Mahmoud Abbas, this paradigm for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in urgent need of reexamination. In the years to come things may look entirely different. It is certainly no excuse for throwing monkey wrenches into the wheels of government at this time.

But Tzipi Livni, followed by her retinue of Kadima MKs, keeps marching to a different tune, a tune that bears little resemblance to the reality staring us in the face. It’s time to wake up.

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