Today, brings the unwelcome news that Tzipi Livni has failed in her negotiations to form a new Israeli government. She was foiled by religious parties which originally made onerous demands that she support their constituencies with financial handouts. Finally they simply refused to join, believing they have the prospect of a better deal after new elections, for which the Likud’s Bibi Netanyahu is leading in the polls.
The news is unwelcome because it completely undoes the negotiations engaged in by Ehud Olmert with the Palestinians and Syrians toward respective peace deals. Personally, I felt Livini was a respectable moderate candidate who had the prospect of continuing and even advancing the peace process. There seems little likelihood of that now unless she can miraculously beat Netanyahu in the coming elections.
If Netanyahu wins, there is absolutely no chance for peace. In fact, I’d expect a heightening chance of outright war either with the Palestinians or Iranians or both (not to mention the Syrians and Hezbollah). There seems little doubt that Netanyahu would bomb Iran and he certainly has no interest in negotiating any agreement that any credible Palestinian leader would sign. Likewise, the chance that he will continue negotiating with Syria are nil. So we’re in for a long, cold winter in the Middle East if Bibi triumphs.
Another reason I find this dispiriting news is that I expected Obama had an excellent shot at corralling a peace deal among Israel, the Palestinians, the Syrians and Lebanese. With Netanyahu, that simply is impossible.
I wonder what kind of campaign she will run. I’d like to see her run as Sharon’s heir: a former rightist with impeccable nationalist credentials who’s turned toward pragmatism not out of any love for the Palestinians (I’m talking about her strategy, not my own beliefs), but out of love for her country and her passion to see its future guaranteed. She could run as the candidate who embraces the peace process. She could point out that Netanyahu will be the candidate of blood, death and endless sacrifice; how long must out boys die in places like southern Lebanon and for what? She could claim that if he wins terrorism will escalate (which it certainly will). That way, if she did win, the right would have no chance to claim she had no mandate to negotiate an end to the conflict involving territorial compromise.