When the policy alleging that Israel has no partner to whom it can give back the territories causes Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayad's cabinet to collapse, burying the two-state solution under its debris, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni can say: "I told you so."
When Al-Qaida forms a base for operations in Gaza after Hamas captures the West Bank and the terrorists return to Tel Aviv, the foreign minister can say: "I warned them."
After the third Lebanon war, once the political stalemate with Syria causes the northern border to heat up, Livni can declare: "I raised the alarm." It's all written in the Foreign Ministry papers, in lecture transcripts and even in the newspapers.
Indeed, on paper Livni is Israel's most concerned citizen. But when it comes to results, Livni is a paper tigress. In her editorial in the influential Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, she listed Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas as mutual enemies of Israel and the Arab nations that support the Arab League's peace initiative. Livni pointed out that these extreme forces are conspiring to turn a solvable political dispute into an inter-religious total war.
At the Saban Forum on problems in the region, Livni said Israel realized that in light of this situation, a stalemate in negotiations for reaching an agreement with the neighboring countries is not in Israel's best interests. When Livni refers to Israel's interests, she means the formation of an independent Palestinian state. She regards the two-state solution as the only means to preserve Israel's Jewish and democratic character.
The foreign minister believes that we must not shelve the option of a historic compromise and turn to other solutions (or despair) before the dialogue with the moderate Palestinian camp is exhausted. She fears that every day Israel spends running in place brings closer the return of the Palestinian unity government and thus postpones the solution of dividing the land between the two peoples. She wants to avoid the need to regret mistakes in hindsight after another future calamity, and she is determined to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
In a recent lecture in Jerusalem, Livni said the Oslo Accords' weak point was postponing to the end of the process the talks on a permanent agreement. She admits that in opting for a unilateral move, Israel missed a rare opportunity to bolster the pragmatic Palestinian faction and ended up strengthening Hamas.
Livni believes that gestures such as releasing prisoners and lifting roadblocks are short-term remedies that fall short of restoring the status of Palestinian partners for the two-state formula.
Only publicly declared negotiations on a permanent agreement, in Livni's mind, can get the Fatah cabinet on its feet. This will show the Arabs that the "diplomatic horizon" isn't just another cliche in the occupation's glossary, like "a window of opportunity" and "Bush's vision." Livni has a prepared agenda, including a timetable for negotiations and performance tests that would determine the rate and extent of concessions.
Those who closely follow her statements could get the impression that if it were up to her, she would invite Abbas over today to discuss the character of the future Palestinian state and the nature of its relations with Israel. Or perhaps not today, but yesterday. But it is up to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, not Livni, to do so. And he is currently refusing to address the conflict's root causes.
What would Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni tell some future committee that would interview her about her actions to prevent the third intifada, or the third Lebanon war?
"I arrived at the meeting feeling that people were less attentive to what I had to say ... When I started speaking, the prime minister was engaged in a conversation with the chief of staff ... he told me to go on. I told him: 'I'm not finished speaking, I would like your attention,' to which the prime minister replied by saying: 'I am listening to your every word and tiniest vibration.'"
"The region's nations cannot only settle for thwarting the radicals' plots, but must believe in the option of peace, the option which offers us a brighter, safer and more dignified future ... Therefore the region's nations and leaders must act sensibly and courageously to bring about this alternative," Livni concluded.
As a politician enjoying encouraging approval ratings who harbors aspirations to become prime minister, Livni realizes that when her country's vital interests are at stake, her leadership will be examined for political courage, not scholarly essays.
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