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Kadima, Livni Face Big Challenges

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mohammad Khajouei

With the announcement of resignation of the scandal-plagued prime minister of the Zionist regime Ehud Olmert who was forced to step down following a series of financial and political scandals, inter-party ballots were held on Wednesday September 17 to choose Olmert’s surrogate and new leader of the ruling Kadima party in Israel.

Consequently, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was introduced as the new leader of the Kadima party after winning over her rivals, the most important of whom was the Israeli minister of Transport Shaul Mofaz, poising to become Israel’s new prime minister.

Winning victory in this balloting, Livni, 49, is the second Israeli female politician who has become the leader of the ruling party and is going to become prime minister after Golda Mayer, the Zionist prime minister in the 1970s.

Many consider Livni a veteran spy who was a member of the Israeli intelligence service (Mossad). Livni was among the first persons in Olmert’s cabinet who turned a serious rival against him and aspired replacing him.

Following the Israeli defeat in the 33-day war against the Lebanese Hizbullah in June 2006, she was among persons who were blamed for the defeat against Hizbullah. However, she did her best to get rid of the accusations and point all the charges towards Olmert. For this reason, he tuned in with Olmert’s opponents and criticized him in various interviews due to negligence in war. This agitated Olmert greatly.

Livni was also severely at odds with Olmert on the mechanism of talks with Palestinians. Olmert believed in division of Beit ul-Moqaddas with Palestinians and giving up some of the claims of Israel while Livni was against this policy and believed that this would further jeopardize the security of Israel.  

Nevertheless, compared to the rightist Israeli leaders who support serious confrontation with the Palestinians, she has a moderate viewpoint. Furthermore, she has supported Sharon’s plan on unilateral withdrawal from some of the Palestinian territories and backs the idea of formation of an independent Palestinian government. This is why many Arabs and Palestinians prefer her to people such as Shaul Mofaz who has asked for massacre of 70 Palestinians a day when he was the Israeli war minister.

In the recent internal elections of Kadima, a great number of Israeli Arabs voted for Livni. Moreover, Tzipi Livni was the person who brought to the Foreign Ministry a great number of Arabs residing in Israel and appointed them to important positions when she was at the helm of the ministry. She chose one of her deputies from among Arabs, something that established a very good image of her before the Palestinians and Arabs.

With respect to Iran, however, which has turned into one of the hot topics for discussion especially at news circles of Israel, Livni in general follows a policy similar to those of other Israeli leaders. She has never said she was not after war with Iran but at the same time like other Israeli officials she considers Iran a threat to Israel’s security. But despite all this, compared to her rivals, Livni follows a milder policy towards Iran. Moreover since she does not enjoy military background, her viewpoint on Iran is more moderate compared to other Israeli officials especially that she has said she would use less military personnel in executive affairs when forming the government.

After Olmert’s resignation and her introduction as the prime minister, to prevent early elections, Livni has 42 days to form a government. At present Livni is faced with two challenges emerging from the pressures imposed by critics due to her little experience in political-military arena and also revamping the weakened and diluted status of the ruling party.

Livni has taken over a party which has lost its status in rivalry against other parties including Likud and Labour and therefore in the 42 day deadline for formation of a coalition cabinet, she is faced with challenges in repairing the credit of the ruling party.

On the other hand, she does not have such a prominent status in her party and this might in the future lead to more pressures on her.

Although she insists on forming a new cabinet as soon as possible but the leaders of Shas party have demands for joining Livni’s cabinet and have threatened that if their demands are not met they would not join the coalition.

At the same time, Likud Party leaders have said that they were not ready to join Livni cabinet and therefore they will ask for holding early elections because according to the latest opinion poll held, the residents of the occupied Palestine favore Likud more than Kadima and from this dimension, Netanyahu is hopeful that Likud would take over the cabinet in an early election.

One of the Likud leaders, Silvan Shalum, said that Kadima has been defeated and the party has no prestige among the people. The Labor party is also after getting new concessions and one of the ministers of this party has said that their party prefers early elections to party elections.

Israel seems to have been put under a situation that has lost its leaders and is facing important challenges both inside and outside the country.

Therefore the most important responsibility of Livni under the current situation is preservation of the status quo provided that she would be able to preserve the present cabinet coalition or prevent its disintegration. Otherwise, dissolution of the parliament and holding of early elections during the first several months of her rule would not be improbable.

On the other hand it seems that with the continuation of political disputes and differences inside Israel, attaining peace in the Middle East which had been the aim of the Bush administration, as well as the Olmert and Abbas governments is facing a big question mark!

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