Op-Ed: What can Peres, Livni and Obama be Thinking?
If saying "may the best man win" and acting as if you believe it, even when that turns out not to be you, is a prerequisite for civilized and statesman like behavior, Tzipi Livni is not going to make the grade. The head of the recently created Hatnua party does not lose gracefully; when she lost a democratic election that resulted in her ouster from her position as Kadima party leader, she soon left both the party and the Knesset, going home in a huff.
It seems she has to be at the head of the line, reportedly dooming Sheli Yechimovitch's attempts to unite the center (that's what they call themselves)-left parties because she insisted on being first on the joint list.
She also refused Netanyahu's offer to join his coalition almost four years ago when he was given the task of forming the government and the Kadima party she chaired at the time had received one more mandate than Likud. Not willing to be second, she demanded rotation for the office of PM and Bibi turned her down. That's how she succeeded in using up the last vestiges of Ariel Sharon's voter loyalty in the breakaway Kadima party he had founded ; they gave Kadima the seats which she promptly squandered in an ineffectual opposition – before she went home.
Perhaps the Bibi-error is not only a matter of insisting on being at the head of the line; it could instead be due to faulty negotiation skills evidenced in other spheres. Livni boasts about how UN resolution 1701, that ended the Second Lebanon War, was the fruit of her negotiations as Foreign Minister, forgetting that ending the war was not its goal. The most crucial part of that agreement included a ban on bringing more weaponry into South Lebanon, a bitter joke. The Hizbullah, which had 10,000 rockets at the war's end, now has 50,000 despite the resolutiion.
Being seen by the media as egotistical, a sore loser and a naïve negotiator – about which alleged traits numerous articles have appeared in the Israeli press - may affect her chances as leader of a political party.
But her behavior this week puts her completely outside the pale, the Zionist circle where citizens sing "to be a free nation in our own land" as part of their national anthem..
What was she thinking? Obama had the chutzpah to say that Israel doesn't know its best interests and what was her reaction? Did she say, as anyone with a healthy respect for Israel's independence would say, that although she does not agree with Netanyahu on the chances for peace with the PA, Israel is not a vassal of the United States and its president has no business talking about Israel as if it is an errant schoolchild.
Not a chance – she agreed with Obama and used his words to castigate Israel's Prime Minister in public so as to try to get more votes for herself. Are those the actions of a statesman and leader? They are cedrtainly a far cry from minimal national pride.
There is a depressing suspicion that the reason for her action has to do with her natural partners, both of whom took center stage this past week. One can now hear people entertaining the thought that it was a telephone call from Obama that led to the last-minute overnight formation of the party-that-has-no-name, bombastically called "The Movement led by Tzipi Livni".
President Obama can and does not realize Livni's standing in Israel after her unsuccessful and cold chairmanship of Kadima, he sees her as a cooperative and compliant alternative to Bibi. He wanted her to run for Knesset and try to become the next Prime Minister.
And so that is how the partnership plan may have begun. And it continues:
Obama convinces Livni to run to "save Israel" from that annoying Prime Minister who doesn't take orders from Uncle Sam.
Obama also doesn't realize that many Israelis think Bibi is actually too compliant. (Personally , I think he did a credible job of walking between the raindrops of condemnations, but that we need a strong Bayit Yehudi to give him the backing to take the steps – such as adopting the Levi Report – he faltered at taking. )
The rest is planned orchestration. President Peres is interviewed in the New York Times and just happens to give his predictions and views on the need to turn to Abbas again – and how, if not, there will be another intifada - just slips of the tongue for someone whose esteemed position is supposed to be sans partisan politics – which are, how surprising, blatantly anti-Netanyahu. In fact, they resemble nothing so much as Livni's platform.
Then the reports of Obama's anti-Netanyahu remarks just happen to be leaked by his friendly media columnist, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Tzipi reacts on cue. After all, who needs independence?
What were they all thinking? Don't they know what sabras are? There is a tough and prickly surface to the citizens of this country that reacts to this kind of browbeating and downright disloyalty to its elected government by deciding it had better chooose candidates who can stand up to Obama, the US president who certainly doesn't have a clue as to Israel's best interests.