Livni Is Impressive In Her First Speech

Israeli Prime Minister-Designate Tzipi Livni lived up to her impressive credentials in her first national policy address since being tapped by the Kadima Party to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who resigned amid ongoing investigations for alleged corruption.

Livni, who has served as Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which she acquitted herself well, is being given an opportunity to form a new coalition government, and potentially forestall the need for new national elections. She faces potential opposition from two former prime ministers — Ehud Barak, leader of the Labor Party, on the liberal side of the political spectrum, and Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the more conservative Likud Party, which is described as “hardline” on the issue of territorial compromise in the peace process. As the Jewish Light goes to press, Livni’s Kadima Party reached agreement with Labor Party leader Ehud Barak to join her coalition.

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For her part, Livni made it clear in her debut address that she remains committed to the broadly centrist agenda of the Kadima Party, which was created by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon and Olmert, both veterans of the Likud Party, who had championed expansion of Jewish settlements in the territories, came to the conclusion that Israel must find a way to achieve a final peace agreement based on a two-state solution: the Jewish State of Israel, existing side-by-side in peace and security with an independent Palestinian Arab State.

Livni is taking a responsible stance as she attempts to form a ruling coalition, and it is hoped that she will be successful. When Sharon was swept into office in Kadima’s first victory, he received a strong mandate to press forward with the peace process. Like the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Sharon concluded that Israel could no longer continue to occupy or administer a large and increasingly hostile Arab population, and that a political and diplomatic settlement based on two independent states at peace was the only feasible option to preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic nation. A “one-state” solution would automatically result in a Palestinian majority, and Israel would cease to exist as a Jewish State. Continued Israeli control of the Palestinian territories could bring charges of an “apartheid” regime, which goes against the very fiber of Israel’s character.

Both Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu are highly intelligent and capable political leaders, but neither of them had especially successful administrations as prime minister. When either Labor or Likud has a narrow majority in Israel’s Knesset, the prime minister is limited in his or her ability to make bold political decisions without causing the coalition to collapse. The Likud Party’s hardline position in refusing to make necessary concessions to achieve peace with the Palestinians could result in a continued stalemate. On the other hand, if a Labor government with a narrow majority attempts to move too fast, it could also collapse.

Just as Democrats and Republicans came together in the United States Congress to pass the financial “rescue” or “bail-out” package, so must the various factions in Israel come together in unity to achieve peace with the Palestinians and Israel’s other neighbors. Both of the major candidates for President of the United States support the two-state solution as the end game for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Of course, in order to make peace, Israel will need a Palestinian peace partner who is serious about achieving that goal. Sadly, under both the late Yasser Arafat, who clearly never really wanted peace, or the current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who seems incapable of delivering a deal, the Palestinians have continued to miss opportunities to achieve their professed dream of a state of their own. In addition, the terrorist group Hamas, which is adamantly opposed not only to peace, but to the very existence of Israel, continues to have an iron grip on the Gaza Strip, containing half of the Palestinian population.

Despite the frustrations caused by the Palestinian impasse, we applaud Tzipi Livni for her clear and forthright public commitment to continue to arrive at peace with the Palestinians and other Arab neighbors of Israel. If Livni does become Prime Minister, we hope that she will be successful in achieving the goal of peace, which was first articulated when David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, read out Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.

During this season of the High Holidays, we offer a deeply felt prayer that the goal of shalom, of peace can finally be achieved in the Land of Israel and its neighbors.