The 2009 elections will probably end with the establishment of a national unity government. The reason is political rather than geo-strategic. If Tzipi Livni wins she will not be capable of forming a stable center-left government, and therefore she will be forced to cooperate with both Labor and the Likud. If Benjamin Netanyahu wins, he will not want to form an extreme right-wing government, and therefore will choose to have both Kadima and Labor join him. If by some miracle Ehud Barak wins, his slim victory will not leave him any choice but to rely on Livni, Netanyahu and their parties.
That being the case, we can reasonably assume that after the three candidates clash with each other over the next 100 days, they will sit alongside one another for the next three years in one large common government.
The significance of this scenario is clear: The next Israeli government will not be the government of peace with Palestine. In order to achieve an Israel-Palestine peace we will have to divide Jerusalem, and the next government will not divide Jerusalem. In order to achieve an Israel-Palestine peace we will have to let refugees enter Israel, and the next government will not be able to let refugees enter Israel. Therefore, even if the Palestinians turn into Finns and eliminate Hamas from their midst, the next government will not sign a peace agreement with them. The 2009 government may prepare the ground for the division of the country, but it will not divide the country. The next government will not bring Israel to peace.
Hollow promises of peace have disrupted most election campaigns in the past 20 years. In 1992, in 1996, in 1999 and in 2006 the democratic process was biased, because one candidate was identified with peace whereas his opponent was identified with obstructing peace. The justified belief in peace led to a situation where the peace candidate was not asked any tough questions, was not required to offer detailed plans and was not investigated even if he was tainted by corruption.
From one election campaign to the next, the public discourse dwindled. The election platforms disappeared, the investigations disappeared and even the television debates disappeared. Election politics turned into simplistic politics of who is with us and who is against us. Who is our man, the defender of peace.
The disruption of the system reached its height in the previous election season. Everyone knew that Ehud Olmert was suspected of corruption, but the corruption suspicions were not investigated. Everyone knew that Olmert had no leadership experience, but the question of leadership experience was not discussed. Everyone knew that Olmert is a cynic who adapts his colors to those of his surroundings, but the question of integrity was not raised. The moment that Ehud Olmert was designated as one of ours, he enjoyed almost total immunity.
Israel's political elite marketed Olmert to the masses just as the Wall Street banking elite marketed the hollow products of sub-prime mortgages. Israel's political elite did to the local democratic system what the rating companies did to the international financial system. Don't ask too many questions, it said, don't complicate things and don't insist on procedures. We have something special for you. We have a triple A for you. We have Ehud Olmert for you.
Tzipi Livni is not Ehud Olmert. She is not corrupt, not cynical and not lacking in integrity. On the contrary. But the system that is now selling her is the same system that sold Olmert. Even the sales method is similar: anyone but Bibi, for the sake of peace, anyone but Bibi. Don't ask questions, don't complicate things and don't insist on procedures. Even if it is fictitious, peace is above everything. Peace comes before democracy.
Livni is the first one who should rise up against this old and inferior type of politics. Livni is well aware that the previous anyone-but-Bibi actually led to an accursed war and a serious attack against the rule of law. Livni is well aware that the previous anyone-but-Bibi did not evacuate a single settler from his home, but corrupted Israel to its foundations. Therefore Livni must declare that she is not interested in being elected in the same way that Olmert was elected. She must promise not to conduct an election campaign of spin and polls, but rather a campaign of profound discussions. The candidate of different politics should already now initiate an intensive series of long and revealing television debates.
The government to be established in February or March 2009 will be far better than its predecessors. It will not lead to peace with Palestine, but perhaps it will lead to peace with Syria. The chances are good that it will seriously confront the challenge of security, the challenge of education and the challenge of law and governance. However, in order for the government to be a worthy one it must be elected in a worthy manner.
If Tzipi Livni believes that she is the honest person who is worthy of becoming the prime minister in the next 100 days, she must prove it.
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