Livni. Not What We Thought

Livni was the great white hope of many, including the author of these words. But it has once again become clear that there is no substitute for a compass or a conscience.

According to all the polls, Tzipi Livni could have begun her speech at the Kadima meeting last Thursday with the following words: "I am a popular deputy prime minister and foreign minister." Livni is the preferred candidate to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the Winograd Committee report on last summer's war in Lebanon is publicized - thanks to the widespread public belief that she had nothing to do with the failures of the recent Lebanon war.

The daughter of a fighting family, who abandoned her political home, owes her impressive ratings to the supporters of the unilateral disengagement. This large camp is primarily comprised of voters who assumed that the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was the first step on the way to ending the occupation. Livni's supporters also include quite a few centrists and moderate leftists, who see her as a realistic diplomat, a decent politician and a compassionate woman.

But the comments the foreign minister has been making recently should earn her a little credit from right-wing circles. "Her work," as her boss Olmert says, is reminiscent of that of a weather forecaster. The No. 1 female diplomat in Israel spends her time forecasting rainy days and talking about how to prepare for them. In the time she has left, she finds holes in Arab diplomatic initiatives and attempts to fill them with fruitless ideas. Thus, she said in a recent speech in Washington that the dispute over the territories and Jerusalem is a marginal matter, and that pragmatic Arab leaders have informed her that the key problem in the region is the conflict between extremists and moderates.

Last week Livni returned to Washington and suggested to her pragmatic friends that they begin normalizing relations with Israel and leave peace with the Palestinians for better days. It was something along the lines of a Yitzhak Shamir-style "peace for peace" idea. From Livni's perspective, the Arabs' first step in the right direction must be amending the March 2002 Arab League decision before the league's next summit in Riyadh at the end of the month. True, the decision includes the words "agreed solution" and makes no mention of "right of return" (unlike the Clinton plan, which refers to a return to the homeland), but Livni insists that the pragmatic Arabs, in her words, are erasing the last part of the phrase - "on the basis of UN General Assembly Resolution 194."

And why would the Saudis believe that after the Israeli flag flies in Riyadh, Livni will deign to speak to them about the flag on the Temple Mount? How many flags have been added to the outposts since her government has committed to dismantling them? What happened to the Talia Sasson report on outposts since Livni was appointed head of the ministerial committee tasked with implementing it? What has Livni done with her insight that it was a mistake to throw away the key to the Gaza Strip instead of handing it over to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas? She is heading the diplomatic campaign leading toward failure of the government that the pragmatic Palestinian leader established with the help of Abdullah, the pragmatic king of Saudi Arabia.

There is one area in which Livni is doing impressive work: on behalf of the rights of those without a Jewish grandmother. The amendment of the Citizenship Law, which prevents family unification and marriage between Israeli Arabs and Arabs living in the territories, is registered in the law books under Livni's name, from her time as justice minister. Had it been up to her, the government would not have initiated the change that granted permanent citizenship status to some of the children of foreign workers. The four Shas ministers and Foreign Minister Livni opposed the move.

Livni is rising to the top on the waves of criticism against Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former chief of staff Dan Halutz, which appeared in the Winograd Committee's recent announcement. But even Livni herself - although she understood that it was a shame that soldiers were sent into an indecisive war and she acted to promote a cease-fire, and although she came out against a ground incursion - left Minister Ophir Pines-Paz and Eli Yishai in the minority when they voted against the operation.

Livni was the great white hope of many, including the author of these words. But it has once again become clear that there is no substitute for a compass or a conscience.