Livni, don't give in
If she is unable to influence the new government's diplomatic direction, she must lead the opposition and convince the public to support her path.
Ever since she was elected Kadima's chairwoman, Tzipi Livni has spoken in the name of a "different kind of politics" that puts principles ahead of ministerial positions. She said her failure to form a government after Ehud Olmert's resignation was due to her refusal to compromise and accept Shas' diplomatic and budgetary demands. During the Knesset election campaign, she portrayed her race against Benjamin Netanyahu for the premiership as a battle for peace, declaring, "the dove is on the windowsill."
Now, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is inviting Kadima to join his coalition, and he has promised the party senior portfolios plus partnership in drafting the government guidelines. His proposal puts Livni's principles to the test: Will she agree to be a junior partner in a coalition led by Likud, which she quit because of her support for the disengagement, or will she stick to her principles all the way to the opposition? Will she succeed in getting Netanyahu to moderate the hardline diplomatic positions he presented before the election?
At their meeting Sunday night, Livni demanded Netanyahu accept the two-state solution and agree in principle to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has always opposed this, and still does. Six years ago, when he was finance minister in Ariel Sharon's government, he abstained in the cabinet vote that approved the road map, which calls for a two-state solution. Since then, his basic position has not changed. Netanyahu supports negotiations with the Palestinians, but he believes the focus should be on economic development in the territories, not on a final-status agreement, which he views as impractical. He also opposes withdrawing from most of the West Bank and insists on continuing to expand the settlements.
If he accepts Livni's demands, Netanyahu will signal that he intends to conduct a moderate foreign policy that will be acceptable to the international community, at the price of driving away the parties to his right. If he insists on continuing the occupation, or conceals his positions behind obscurantist phraseology, Kadima must not join his government.
Livni's public positioning of herself at the head of the Israeli peace camp during the election campaign, along with her insistence on a "different kind of politics," obligate her to stick to her principles - first and foremost her call to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians. If she is unable to influence the new government's diplomatic direction, she must lead the opposition and convince the public to support her path.