The Real Tzipi Livni

The Sunday New York Times Magazine on July 8th published a cover piece on Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni "Her Jewish State" by International Herald Tribune and New York Times writer Roger Cohen. Colleagues urged me to read it.  Some added trenchant comments as well. One even called it 'dreck....pure dreck'.

Stef Kanfer, former Time Magazine editor and noted columnist for City Journal said: "I was particularly revolted by Cohen's self-described tears as he looked back at the so-called failed promise of the wicked Oslo accords".

Others had  minor epiphanies of sorts after reading it saying that Jerusalem  Post pundit Carolyn Glick's
slashing criticism of Livni was a bit ‘over the top'.

Two years ago, prior to the disastrous Gush Katif withdrawal from Gaza, Avi Goldwasser said on a call that Livni was a 'comer' in Israeli politics.

So, I checked her out and indeed she had certain hallmarks of a comer. She was still a Member of Likud before the one issue Kadima coalition government under Sharon and rudderless Olmert was formed to push the Gaza disengagement agenda. The Gaza withdrawal was largely to cover up Sharon's alleged corruption and
conviction of his son Omri and others running Likud campaign financing.

Livni, the daughter of Irgunists and members of the right wing Herut party that morphed into Likud, had held a number of junior cabinet posts under Sharon. She had received awards for her integrity and alleged incorruptibility.  So, I said, I would wait and see what developed.

As someone who late in life woke up to the fact that Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the legendary Zionist, had the correct vision for Israel and the beleaguered Jewish Diaspora in the run up to the Second World War and  the Shoah, the fact that Livni was a daughter of Irgunists resonated with me.  I know another heroic daughter of Irgunists, Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld.  So, having known of Ehrenfeld's 'steel', I presumed that Livni was cut from the same cloth.

For me in this 'atmospheric' piece by Cohen, the highest moment of Livni's development came at the age of 11 when she protested against Kissinger's 1974 disengagement caper that lead to the Camp David accords under  President Carter- no friend of Israel .

Livini's much vaunted integrity as a daughter of unvarnished Zionists does come through in the Cohen article.

What is the evidence?

Livni was a member of last summer's Kadima Security Cabinet that launched the disastrous, some would say botched, mini-war in Lebanon, despite her opposition.  A war concocted without an evident plan by incompetent Olmert, former Minister of Defense Peretz, himself a derided resident of rocketed Sderot, and cashiered former IDF COS, Dan Halutz. They thought they could get away with an Israeli version of a US style Kosovo air campaign in Lebanon against Hezbollah. Wrong. The IDF was woefully unprepared after years of budget cuts that affected unit training readiness and lack of procurement of weapon systems against rocket and anti-tank missiles. No air force that I know of can take ground and clean out the Hezbollah net work of bunkers.  Virtually all of northern Israel was slammed with Katyusha rockets and one million ended up in sweltering, fetid bunkers or in holiday camps on the Mediterranean coast courtesy of oligarchs like Arkady Gaydamak.

Livni's contribution to resolving the debacle was securing
UN Security Council resolution 1701 bringing in another UNIFIL force to monitor the Hezbollah terrorist army. Obviously it didn't work as Iran via its proxy client state, Syria, has restocked massive new underground fortifications in southern Lebanon for Hezbollah. Recently, alleged al Qaeda networks in southern Lebanon using Iraqi style roadside bombing killed six Spanish UNIFIL troops. 

Livni caved to the arm twisting of Secretary of State Condi Rice after the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005.  In November 2005, Israel ceded control  over the Rafah Gap border with Egypt to let Mahmoud Abbas 'strut his stuff'.  This opened up the floodgate for arms, munitions and al Qaeda operatives to pour into Gaza through the tunnels under the Philadelphi Road border.  Less than two months later in January 2006, 'democracy' broke out in Palestinian legislative elections with a Hamas victory. The devastating recent fight between two Palestinian militias created 'the rump duchy of Ramallah' on the West Bank and Hamastan in Gaza.

The Kadima cabinet including Livni emboldened Abbas and his fellow Fatah kleptomaniacs by releasing their impounded tax collections and eliminating some of the checkpoints controlled by the IDF on the West Bank. Hamas has gone to ground and no matter what the US and EU do the ‘dream' of Palestine, is lost. That is reflected in recent Israeli polls indicating unease about handing back control of the West Bank.

Livni could have brought down the incompetent Kadima coalition when in the wake of the initial revelations of the Winograd Commission she
demanded his ‘resignation' only to be entreated by PM Olmert to remain in the cabinet and dropped her request for his resignation.

If she had resigned instead she might have taken most of the former Likud cabinet members with her and created a center right coalition.  But she didn't.  Now, we'll see what she does when the final Winograd Commission report findings and recommendations come out.

My problem with virtually all Israeli politicians, including the good ones that I have gotten to know, is that they, including Livni , are like actors , caught up in a kabuki dance. A kabuki dance created by the party list form of government. A government without a real constitution and representative election districts. A government hamstrung by an unaccountable activist court. A government propelled by protexia-the system of cronyism and corruption.

I would assume that Livni must bridle at the presence of former Kadima Justice Minister Haim Ramon as deputy PM in the rickety Kadima coalition. This, following his conviction for sexual misconduct under what passes for the Justice system in Israel with its activist High Court.

The other problem I have with Roger Cohen's New York Times piece on Foreign Minister Livni is his lip service to empty verbal gestures about peaceful solutions with the Palestinians - as if they were a coherent civil polity, which they are not. They are warring clans with flags and guns. Witness the disingenuous remarks of Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. On the one hand he bemoans the 'straitjacket' of Israeli occupation and risk averse Israeli negotiators, while castigating the riotous behavior of his own people.  But Erakat doesn't have to worry much. He and his family including the US wing have valuable northern California real estate and property holdings worth a princely fortune. He's no fool for a Fatah leader.

But in the end, my problem with Livni is by extension my problem with Israelis. They don't listen to advice. Why?  Because they arrogantly think that they know better.  If there were popular support, the government would crush these threats and demonstrate to the 'Quartet' that deadly neighbors should be destroyed. 

Just yesterday, Livni  went along with Olmert and voted for the release of 250 Terrorists, while PM Olmert prattled, " I have come to the conclusion that releasing the prisoners will not affect the chances of bringing Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser home."

She hasn't and won't show resolve because Israel is not free to defend its people, regardless of what government comes to power.

The feckless, bewildered US, crashing about in the Middle East, calls the tune because of sovereign debt guarantees and the military grants in aid. Without that aid the squeeze on all Israelis, especially those most disadvantaged, would be enormous. In place of 40 % of the current budget allocated to interest payments and security, it might be closer to 60% putting pressure on the social safety net, health programs, education and other public purposes.

So, all told, Livni doesn't pass muster.