Friday, September 19, 2008

Tzipi's Choice

My friend Naomi Chazan has put the case brilliantly in the new Forward. If Tzipi Livni thinks she can place the peace process on a back-burner or, to put things more cruelly, that an Israeli majority will choose her to lead the country into a fight-to-the-finish with Palestinians, she is mistaken. As Michael Corleone told Tom Hagen, "You are not a war-time Consigliori."

Much like Mahmoud Abbas, Livni's only hope to form a stable government, or to gain popularity in advance of new elections, is to prove that she can renew the promise of an agreement under American-European auspices, that is, advance the interests of Israelis over Judeans. She must show that diplomacy is the problem and she is the solution. Her side is the majority and creates most of the wealth. She must choose to inspire. The fact that Haim Oron, the head of the Meretz peace party, is claiming that Livni has offered him a place in a new government is a sign that Livni gets it. One hopes the next American president will get it, too.   

Incidentally, the same issue of the  Forward includes a very thoughtful review of The Hebrew Republic. The reviewer, Joel Streicker, chides me gently, however, for implying (in the book's subtitle) that peace is inevitable. I am not sure I do imply this--anyway, I have never made a buck betting against tragedy. But the book places its hopes mainly in the rising professional class of Israel, people who know the opportunities of globalization, and opportunity costs of war. If there is a poster child for this rising group, it may well be Livni.


Y. Ben-David said...

Dr Avishai,

It is interesting how many of your postings are attempts to find ways of thrwarting the will of the Jewish people, both in Israel and outside it. Your views are representative of maybe 10% of the Jewish population. There is no way you can ever get a majority in the Knesset to agree to carry out the policies you want, which involve creating was is essentially an artificial division bewteen what you call "Israelis" and "Judeans". While it is true that there is a lot contempt in your "elite" camp for the Right and Religious communities, it is not as virulent as you seem to indicate. So you end of trying to to concoct political intrigues to overturn the democratic will of the majority. One is by way of your "Hebrew Republic" in which you claim that deJudaizing the Jewish state will allow an alliance between your secular, moneyed "elite" and the Arabs who really have nothing in common with them (the average Arab has a lifestyle much closer to that of the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox than with the secular Tel Aviv crowd). Rabin talked about this in the 1990's and the Arabs said "no thanks". So now, you have come up with another plan, get the Americans and Europeans to come in order to threaten your "elite" to use force against the "Judeans", something you yourself admit that they really don't want to do. You seem to believe that waving money in front of their noses, or threatening them somehow will turn them against their brothers. You have apparently forgotten all the wars and sacrifice that the entire Jewish population went through in order to build the state, and you think hollow threats and promises will succeed in tearing the society apart in order for your policies to be carried out. You are living in a fantasy world. Even most of the Israeli Left rejects these ideas.

Another thing, you are always talking about "the moneyed elites".
In your book you keep saying that they should hook up with the post-Zionists to overturn the Jewish majority of the country politically. Has it occurred to you that maybe not all of them put maximizing their income as their number one value, ahead of their Jewish/Zionist values. Some of the wealthiest people in the country support the Right and support Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria. No doubt many who are willing to make territorial concessions in principle don't trust the Arabs and view the current status-quo as a difficult but yet unavoidable situation and don't accept the double-talking Arab leaders' mealy-mouthed babblings about peace ON THEIR TERMS which you do seem to believe in. That is why you plan to create a civil war between the "Israelis" and "the Judeans" will never come to pass. Threats from the outside would have the effect of uniting the population, not in turning one part against another because most Israelis have a pretty good memory of recent Jewish history and the nature of Israel's enemies.

Y. Ben-David said...

Tzippi Livni is a total non-entity. She has very little real support among the population, since her party is an artificial creation made of misfits who left both the Likud and Labor. It is true that Dr Avishai's elite support her with a big media campaign. She makes a poor impression on people, she barely speaks English and other than mouthing the usual platitudes about "her ardent desire for peace", doesn't have a clue about how to get it (I mean real "peace", not the phony "Oslo process" that destroyed any chance for a relaxation of the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians for at least a generation).
Don't forget that Tzippi comes from the far Right..her parents were legendary ETZEL (Irgun) fighters which means she is genetically tainted as far as the traditional Labor Zionists go. Politicians who jumped from the Right to the Left are kept on a short leash. SHAS's Aryeh Deri was vital in getting his party's support for Oslo, when they didn't need him any more the politicized police implemented their old "get something on him" tricks and sent him to jail (he didn't do anything worse than most other politicians). Next was Ezer Weizman who helped undermine Begin's government from within...he was forced out of the Presidency on bribery charges (he was never put on trial), next was Likud Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai who helped bring down Netanyahu in 1999. Once they finished with him they brought him down with trumped up sexual harrassment charges (the girl he was involved with admitted later he was innocent), then came Sharon who destroyed the political Right, then destroyed Gush Katif and in recognition put his son Omri in jail on trumped up "campaign donation violations", much smaller than those that Barak did in 1999 (and for which the charges against Barak were dropped).
So Tzippi had better deliver, OR ELSE. Only problem for the "progressives" is that she doesn't have the reputation that Sharon had. Sharon was so revered by a large part of the Right that they would follow him like lemmings, as they did with his destruction of Gush Katif. Tzippi will not get loyalty and support from the Right as Sharon did. She can not destroy settlements, she can not destroy Jerusalem by dividing it (as Dr Avishai advocates) and she can not accept the so-called Palestinian "right of return". It makes no difference if MERETZ is in the coalition or not. MERETZ is a discredited far Left party with little support among the population. Give up your illusions.

Anonymous said...

Y.ben david, if Avishai's ideas are illusions, what is the alternative? (You certainly don't provide one.) Status quo? A "modern" nation with little separation between religion and state, where 20% of the population is left out of the democracy? Can you really believe that that's not going to blow up in our face in a generation? Can't you see how that's on the wrong side of history?

The revolution that led to the founding of Israel is over. Now there must be a reckoning for human, not just Jewish, rights. Avoiding this will be our undoing.

Bill said...

The alternative is a third intifada, once the Palestinians give up on Abbas's completely fruitless collaboration policy. There is no indication that Israel understands anything other than violence.

Y. Ben-David said...


Every outbreak of violence the Arabs have brought about has ended up setting them further and further back. If the Arabs made a Sadat-like gesture of sending Abbas, Assad, and Kings Abudallah of Saudi Arabia and Jordan to the Knesset and said they were willing to make full peace with Israel in return for a full withdrawal to the pre-67 lines, while giving up their demand for Israeli recognizing and implementing the so-called "Palestinian Right of Return", they would get it, even from a "right-wing" gov't. Then why do they refuse to make such a gesture? BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT PEACE. Because they won't give up the right of return. Israel is growing and getting stronger, the Arabs, and the Palestinians are going downhill. This is their choice and they are the ones who are going to suffer because of their stupidity, blindness and fanaticism.

Bill said...


You are living in a fantasyland if you think Israel would go back to the 67 borders if the Palestinians renounced the right of return. What Israel would do is keep Jerusalem, keep the settlement blocks, keep control over the Jordan valley, and keep a bit here and a piece there. Israel currently has peace in the West Bank under the collaborationist leadership of the Palestinian Petain, Abbas. And it's building more settlements. The one rollback of Israeli power in Palestine, the withdrawal of the settlements and eventually the occupation from Gaza, came as a result of violence. I'm an American, you're an Israeli--both of our countries were built by violent revolutionaries. Why should the rules be different for Palestine? And Avishai is of course deluding himself about Livni--she'll be another Olmert--talk peace and build settlements.

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