Opportunity for Change in Israel

Arrangements are underway in Israel to form a new coalition government led by Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister. Livni’s Kadima Party and Labour Party of Ehud Barak are set to form another coalition government that might prove the weakest of them all.

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Published: Wed 15 Oct 2008, 8:59 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:08 PM

The coalition deal is ephemeral in essence, to say the least. It is a telling tale of unsustainable compromises and concessions. Livni’s party has given in to Labour’s demand of former prime minister Barak being made the second-in-command, and calling the shots on a host of decisive issues. The coalition will also have representation from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party as well as the leftist Meretz.

Even though Israel’s fundamental policies never change no matter who is in charge, there had been hope in the Middle East that Ms Livni might prove a welcome exception. She has been known as a moderate and clean politician in comparison to her predecessors like Olmert and Ariel Sharon of course. Her pronouncements on the illegal Jewish settlements, the necessity of making genuine progress in the peace process with the Palestinians and keenness to continue dialogue with the Syrians had indeed come as a whiff of fresh air. She was also ostensibly committed to the so-called peace roadmap, notwithstanding the change of guard in US, as she warned, “extremists would gain strength as negotiations stumble”.

Which is why it is so unfortunate that Ms Livni should be tying herself into knots with these compromises and concessions being made to her coalition partners.

With the Labour leadership being given ‘veto’ rights on negotiations with Palestinians and Syria, chances for any meaningful progress now appear remote. The hardline Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and his likes will be out to ensure the coalition breaks under the weight of its own contradictions and concessions. Under Netanyahu, the Likud Party has already made it its election manifesto to withdraw all “concessions” given to Palestinians. And with their eyes on the inevitable midterm polls, the two coalition partners will be forced to play to the gallery. So what this circus of new coalition means for peace in the Middle East is any body’s guess.

But Israel’s new leader can prove all cynics wrong by refusing to give in to the extremists in and outside her government and do everything to reach a just and peaceful solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. She has been blessed with a rare, historic opportunity to end this historical conflict ushering in a new dawn of hope and peace in the Middle East. Ehud Olmert, who has made way for Tzipi Livni, recently lamented the fact that he couldn’t clinch the peace deal with the Palestinians urging the Israelis to give up the West Bank, the Golan Heights and share Jerusalem with the Palestinians. Olmert has come to his senses when he is not in a position to do much to walk the talk. Livni should learn from her predecessor and act when she has time and opportunity to do so.

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