The Leading Candidate

The leading candidate for the prime ministry is sure of herself. Her knees are not knocking. She has no doubts about her victory, nor does she have any doubts about her ability to follow through on her victory. That is beneath her. The foreign minister feels that she is ready and willing to lead the country.

If she wins the Kadima primary, what kind of government will Tzipi Livni form? She will propose that Labor, Shas and Likud join a national unity government. But she has no illusions. She knows that a government headed by her would not serve Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu's interests, and therefore, Netanyahu will refuse. If that happens, there is a good chance that the Livni government will be a continuation of the current Olmert government. Her days in office will be numbered, and she will be laying the groundwork for establishing a government after the next elections.

And what will the agenda of Livni's government be? First of all, the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. The foreign minister is not too fond of the process Ehud Olmert has been conducting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But she is very fond of the process that she herself has been conducting with chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala). Livni's process is aimed at concluding an agreement that is not a mere summary of basic principles, but a detailed treaty. An agreement that is not partial, but final. An agreement that would draw a clear border and define binding security arrangements. An agreement that would comprehensively solve the problem of the refugees and also divide Jerusalem.

Is there really any chance of signing such a document with Abu Ala? Livni's associates broadcast an optimism that is never explained and is not entirely comprehensible. Clearly, Jerusalem is a tough nut to crack. But the foreign minister insists that Jerusalem will be included in the deal, because in her view, it would be wrong to omit any substantive issue. Everything must be finalized.

The fundamental principle is that a Palestinian state will fulfill the national aspirations of all Palestinians - including the refugees, and including Israeli Arabs. But in order for this principle to be implemented, it is necessary to find answers to the question of the capital and the demand for the refugees' return. If no such answers are found - the talks will continue. Either the process will reach a conclusion, or it will continue. An explosion like the one that followed the Camp David summit is inconceivable.

The foreign minister's intellectual libido has been invested almost exclusively in the negotiations with the Palestinians. On the issues of Iran, Syria and Hamas, Livni has no crystallized views. Nor does she have any about the approaching economic crisis. Yet when the candidate talks with her associates about the next government's agenda, she raises a plethora of ideas, some of which contain surprises.

First of all comes changing the electoral system. The democratic Livni has reached the conclusion that there is no choice but to adopt the Netanyahu-Lieberman line of thought and establish a presidential system. The current system is untenable. There is a serious problem of governability. Therefore, it is necessary to enact changes that will ensure that ministers obey the prime minister rather than thwart him. An immediate revolution in the system of government will top the Livni government's agenda.

Livni is also demanding reforms with regard to the rule of law. When she served as justice minister, she thought the Supreme Court was too strong and too uniform. She has not changed her mind since. She shares neither the rhetoric nor the zeal of current justice minister Daniel Friedmann, but she does not reject his worldview. Among other things, she supports splitting the attorney general's job in two. As prime minister, Livni would not hasten to replace law professor Friedmann, but would try to moderate and refine him. Because she herself is not tarred with corruption, she believes that a Livni-Friedmann partnership would not inflame tempers the way the Olmert-Friedmann partnership did. He will make less noise, but produce more results.

Somewhat belatedly, the vice premier has discovered the dire crisis in the education system. The foreign minister has not found time to study the issue in depth. She is not well-versed in the details and has no clear plan. Nevertheless, immediately after she forms a government, she will tackle education, by appointing the best people to lead an educational revolution. Not only Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and Uriel Reichman and Avishay Braverman can do it. Livni can, too. She cares deeply about the future of education.

What characterizes the front-runner is a degree of obtuseness as a leader and enormous self-confidence. Livni does not know any other candidate whose judgment is better than hers. She does not know any other experienced candidate whose experience does him credit. The fact that her plans are somewhat vague does not bother her. In her view, a diplomatic breakthrough, a revolution in the system of government, legal reforms and educational improvements comprise a more than sufficient agenda for the new government she intends to establish.

But above all, Livni believes in the sanity she is offering. With her, there will be no male ego games or macho competitions. With her, decisions will be made normally and the considerations will be substantive. Therefore, she is in a hurry; she wants to get to work. Livni feels that she is now the great white hope, and this hope empowers and obligates her. But here and there, this hope nevertheless drowns her in fear and trembling.