Tzipi, you can do it
September 18, 2008
Tzipi Livni, Prime Minister elect. We have great expectation from you. We can’t help it. Our disappointments from your predecessor are so great and the challenges before you so immense, we need you to succeed. If you do, your success will be the success of all of us, and if you fail, your failures will impact our lives for negatively for years to come.
There are very few Heads of State around the world who have to face the kind of decisions that are in front of you. It is hard to imagine why a sane person would even desire to be in your place. But those of us who grew up in an ideological movement and were educated that we have a “mission” in our lives, can understand the notion of “din hat’neuah” - the judgment and determination of the calling of “the movement”. The decision to lead is ingrained in your soul, in your spirit and the belief that you are “the right person at the right time in the right place” is the driving force that brought you into the seat of Israel’s Prime Minister. For you, it is not ego, for you it is the drive of mission and commitment, that is how you were brought up and it is obvious from the kind of person you have become.
Your tasks are many, and most of them extremely complex. First you must create unity in your party and then form a stable government. That’s the easy part! Your main mission and most important task is the one you have already been working on for months – reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.
Now, you are the boss. You don’t have to take instructions from someone else. You are the leader and it is your responsibility to fulfill the mission that every single Prime Minister before you has failed in doing. You already know how complicated it is. You already know the demands of the Palestinian negotiators. You also know the implications of failure. This is certainly the proverbial “moment of trust” for you and for this country.
You will certainly face pressures from everyone around you. The military and security forces will impress upon you the great risks involved. There is no possible peace agreement with the Palestinians that does not involve risks. There will be threats that if you negotiate Jerusalem you will lose coalition partners. There is no possible agreement with the Palestinians without including Jerusalem in the deal. There will be those who will tell you to work on the economic side of the Palestinian issue – improve their lives and then later work on the political side. There is no Palestinian partner for improving the quality of the occupation – there is only a Palestinian partner for ending the occupation.
There will be those who will advise you to move ahead with the Syrian track because the strategic advantages of peace with the Syrian is much higher than with the Palestinians and the issues are far less complicated. They will say that Israel does not have the capacity to move ahead with peace on two fronts, so chose the Syrian track. The truth is that there is no real possibility for peace without moving forward on both tracks. Each track has the ability to “spoil” the other track. Pursuing both tracks is the right way forward. Moving ahead on both tracks also fulfills the clauses of the Arab Peace initiative which opens the door for Israel to all 22 Arab states and at least to 50 Islamic states as well. The potential payoff is larger than what anyone who sat in the PM’s chair has ever allowed himself to imagine.
There will be many who will tell you that you don’t have the legitimacy to negotiate peace. They will talk about the slim majority of your victory. They will say that you weren’t elected by the general population. They will say that you didn’t get a mandate to negotiate peace. They will say that Kadima’s mandate was for a plan of unilateral disengagement that after the Qassams of Gaza has no legitimacy anymore.
Don’t’ listen to them. If you are sitting in the seat of the Prime Minister and you have a government holding the confidence of the Knesset, you have all the legitimacy in the world. You have the legitimacy to make war, to send the IDF to fight, to send the GSS to assassinate Palestinian combatants. You have the legitimacy and the authority to kill, you certainly have the legitimacy and the authority to negotiate peace, including negotiating the future of Jerusalem.
You will probably have to continue to negotiations in complete silence and secrecy. That is the only way to reach an agreement. Your close relationship that you have already developed with the Palestinian team headed by Abu Ala’ will help you to reach an agreement. The Palestinians are ready to recognize the Jewishness of Israel, as you demand, if you include guarantees for the rights of the Palestinian minority in Israel. The Palestinians will tell you that they are convinced that they can deal democratically with the problem of Hamas if they can present a fair agreement to their public. They will have to do that of face the possibility of losing the West Bank as well.
The Israeli public, skeptical as it may be, will also support an agreement with the Palestinians that will include a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem as long as stands as there is a fair chance of providing Israel with the long-term security that we so badly need. That security is mostly predicated on removing ourselves from occupying the Palestinian people and risking the end of the possibility of the two state solution. The Palestinian Authority has begun to serious combat terrorism. They will continue and succeed if the political process moves forward steadily and with speed. There is no chance of a partial agreement or an interim agreement – those will only empower the extremists.
The time for peace with the Palestinians is now. The time for decisions is now. Move ahead with the Syrians too. Call for the Government of Lebanon to join in as well after you announce your intention to transfer the disputed area of the Sheba farms to the United Nations, after appropriate security arrangements are made.
Lastly, bring home Gilead Shalit. There is no way to bring him home without making huge concessions to Hamas. He and his family have suffered enough. The moral and ethical code of the IDF and of the State of Israel is that we don’t leave soldiers behind. It is time to bring him home. You can do it.
This is your time. This is the time for all of us. We are behind you and with you – as you as you move forward. Be ambitious, be practical, be bold, be sincere, be yourself.
Gershon Baskin is the Co-CEO of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org, Gershon@ipcri.org)