Fly, Tzipora, fly!
THE POLLS were wrong, as usual. And in a big way. As usual.
Instead of winning by a huge margin, as predicted until the very last moment by all the polls, she just squeaked through. Of the 72 thousand or so registered Kadima members, only 39,331 troubled themselves to go to the polls, and among these she defeated Shaul Mofaz by just 431 votes.
But a majority is a majority. Tzipi Livni was duly installed as Kadima chairperson.
What does that say about the Israeli public?
FIRST OF ALL: this is the victory of a person without a military background over someone with almost nothing apart from a military background.
On the advice of his
right-wing American political strategist,
Stanley Greenberg Arthur Finkelstein (Uris correction), Mofaz emphasized the word
"security" on every occasion, almost in every sentence. A popular
talk-show turned this into a parody:
Security, security, security, security.
Well, it did not work. T-h-e general, the chief of Staff, the Defense Minister, was beaten by a mere woman devoid of any military experience (even if she did serve for 15 years in the Mossad.)
That does not mean that Tzipi Livni may not turn out to be a warmonger, like Elisabeth I, Catherine the Great, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi. But fact is fact: the Kadima voters have preferred a non-general to a general.
MOREOVER, KADIMA is a party of the center. The very center of the center. Its members are not fervent about anything, neither on the right or the left, they have no strong convictions of any kind. So their decision can be regarded as a reflection of the general mood.
Mofaz presented himself not only as Mr. Security,
but also as a genuine right-winger, a man who opposes both peace with
Tzipi Livni presented herself as the personification of the peace effort, the woman who conducts the negotiations with the Palestinians, who prefers diplomacy to war, who points the way to the end of the conflict. All this may be sleight of hand, pure deceit. Perhaps there is no difference at all between the two. But even if this is so, that is not the most important aspect. The important fact is that the Kadima voters, the most representative group in the country, accorded victory - well, a tiny victory - to the candidate who at least pretended to favor peace.
In his "The Second Coming", the Irish poet W. B. Yeats describes utter chaos: "Things fall apart, the center cannot hold". The metaphor is taken from military history: in bygone days, armies drew up for battle with the main force in the center, and lighter forces defending the two flanks. As long as the center held, everything was fine.
It can also be described
I REMEMBER the elections nine years ago. In May 1999, Ehud Barak won a decisive victory over the incumbent, Binyamin Netanyahu: 56.08% against 43.92%, a difference of 388,546 votes. The public was just fed up with Netanyahu.
The response was
overwhelming. The general feeling in the peace camp was of a release from
servitude to freedom, from an era of failure and corruption into an era of
peace and well-being. Without any proclamations, without anybody planning it,
masses of people streamed into Tel-Aviv
In the square, the
atmosphere was intoxicating. Delirious people danced, embraced each other,
kissed. Tel Aviv had not seen anything like it since November 1947, when the
United Nations General Assembly decided to establish a Jewish (and an Arab)
state. I experienced a similar scene in April 1948, when I was part of the
force that brought a huge relief convoy into beleaguered and starving
Barak promised to be a second Rabin, only more so. He promised to make peace with the Palestinians within months. A rosy future was warming the horizon, "the dawn of a new day".
year and a half later, nothing of all this remained. Ehud Barak, the hero of peace, brought on us the greatest
disaster in the annals of the struggle for peace. He came back from the
With 20 Hebrew words Barak destroyed the peace camp and brought about a public mood which even Netanyahu could not create: that there is no chance for peace, that we are condemned to live with an everlasting conflict.
Therefore, no one got
excited about Tzipi Livni
SO WHAT to expect, after all?
There are already jokes circulating about "Tzipi and the Tzipiot" (a Hebrew word-play, "tzipiot" meaning expectations), a new rock-band which is about to take to the road. Nobody really knows what kind of a Prime Minister she will be. Strong or weak. Determined or open to pressures. Tough or compromising. Warmonger or peace-seeker.
One can only point at her background, as I hinted last week, and perhaps go into some detail.
On the eve of the elections, in one of those vapid questionnaires the media are so fond of, she was asked who was her hero. Her answer: Jabotinsky.
That was the most predictable answer there could be. Tzipi Livni grew up in a Revisionist household. She is a Revisionist, model 2008. What does that mean?
Her father, Eitan, who was born in
Eitan Livni, as I knew
him, was not a brilliant or exceptional person, but rather solid, loyal, as his
name suggests. (In Hebrew, "eitan" means
strong, steadfast). A person one could rely on. He served in the Irgun as an operational officer, and among other operations
he took part in the daring break-out from
In order to understand Tzipi, one has to go back to Jabotinsky.
His many enemies have often called him a Fascist, but that is inaccurate. He
was born in the 19th century, and was a nationalist in the 19th century mold.
Jabotinsky wanted, of course, all of
was also a real liberal, and a real democrat. He entered the political arena
for the first time when he formulated the "Helsingfors
A PERSON educated according to these values is faced today with a tough dilemma.
Years ago, the
Revisionists used to tell this joke: rewarding David Ben-Gurion for founding
the state, God promised to grant him one wish. Ben-Gurion asked that every
Israeli should be honest, wise and a Labor Party member. "That
Something like this is
now happening to the Revisionists themselves. They ask for three things: a
Jewish State, a state that encompasses all of historic
Tzipi Livni, an honest to goodness Revisionist, has announced her choice: a Jewish and democratic state that will not encompass the whole of the country. (We leave open here the question of whether a "Jewish" state can be democratic.)
In up-to-date Hebrew, we
differentiate between "national" and "nationalistic"
attitudes. A national view recognizes the importance of the national dimension
It seems that Tzipi, like her hero Jabotinsky, adheres to the national view. Hence her emphasis on "two nation-states for two peoples". She speaks about a Jewish nation-state and is ready to sacrifice Greater Israel on this altar.
That may not be an ideal
basis for peace (what would be the status of
REACTING TO the election results, Gideon Levy wrote that the heart wants to hope, but the brain cannot. That is an understandable reaction.
Since Tzipi, short for Tzipora, means bird, one wants to cry out: Fly, Tzipora, fly! Fly to heaven! After your election as Prime Minister, lose no time! Set up a government coalition with the peace forces, use the first few months of your term to achieve peace with the Palestinians, call new elections and submit yourself and the peace agreement to the public test! As Livni herself phrased it in her direct way: "There is no time for bullshitting!"
That is what Ehud Barak should have done in 2000. He did not take the chance, and therefore he lost.
Will Tzipora the bird reach these heights? The heart hopes. The brain has its doubts.