Sunday, June 01, 2008

Israel's "candle-in-chief"

With Ehud Olmert slated to either step down any day from his anointed position as Israel's Prime Minister's, or be kicked out through the more humiliating process of a vote of no confidence in the Knesset, the public gaze is directed at his possible successors. Will it be Ehud Barak, Bibi Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni? We know much about the first two but very little is known about Livni.

For example, did you know that, according to this article in the Jerusalem Post, that

"Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni... was a Paris agent for Mossad in the early 1980s when it ran a series of missions to kill Palestinian terrorists in European capitals" ?

Apparently, "Livni was on active service when Mamoun Meraish, a senior official in the PLO, was shot dead by a Mossad hit squad in Athens on August 21, 1983. She was not directly involved in the killing, in which two young men on a motorcycle drew alongside Meraish's car and opened fire, but her role in Mossad remains secret."

And here are few more striking facts about her:

Livni - along with some 25 IZL old timers - sang the Betar anthem, "Tagar" (defiance: "On all obstacles and hindrances/ Whether you succeed or fail/ In the flames of the revolt/ Carry the flame to kindle/ For silence is mire/ Sacrifice blood and soul/ For the sake of the hidden glory."

"To die or to conquer the mountain," the song concluded, and Livni chimed in. "Yodefat, Massada, Betar."

"The state is not just a technical matter of borders and citizens; it is not just symbols, a flag, and an anthem," Livni said. "The state has a vision and values that obligate its citizens and its leaders."


Livni, obviously, feels she is best suited to serve as the nation's candle-in-chief. And, if the polls are any indication, the public feels the same way - another Livni paradox: The country loves her, if only because it knows so little about her.


The one thing it does know is that she is clean and straight, and as the country emerges from the Omri Sharon-Moshe Katsav-Haim Ramon-Avraham Hirschson-Ehud Olmert era, it will be looking for one thing - a clean and straight candidate.


... the public does not know much about her positions. What they do know they often hear in long, painfully convoluted sentences at press conferences that sound good at first blush, but then on second take don't really mean that much. As a result, if the public backlash against having leaders who could feature in that 1980s television show, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" sweeps Livni into office, the open question is where will she lead the country?

And this is where she falls short. One associate, who said he would vote for Livni, added - in the same breath - that she lacked the "vision thing," is not a particularly good manger and is indecisive.

There are no major divisions between her and Olmert regarding borders, security and Jerusalem, with the only glaring exception being that she is much more adamant than Olmert that Israel must insist, before an agreement is signed, that the Palestinians completely reject any claim to a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

One diplomatic source said, however, that another difference between her and Olmert is that Livni - ever the lawyer - sees the drawing up of a peace agreement itself as an achievement, that the agreement, the piece of paper, is what is important. Olmert, the official said, places less importance on the document.


She is a Likkud bona-fide princess (like Olmert); both her parents were members of the Etzel - IZL, Irgun Z'vai Leumi - which Palestinians and some Brits like to designate as a "terrorist organization". She is also a realist who thinks that the only possible solution to the Palestinian problem is a trading of rights: RoR in exchange for the Jewish historical right to live in the West Bank.

Some of her traits, like her decency, indecisiveness and intellectuality, remind me of Senator Obama. What if they both make it to the top position in their respective countries? What is the meaning of indecisiveness in leadership in this world of ours?

And how is it possible that she was a Mossad Agent if indeed she cannot make dicisions?


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