Should the predications and polls materialize, and in a few weeks President Shimon Peres will task Tzipi Livni with forming a coalition in Israel, where will the next prime minister head on the diplomatic front? Will she realize the Olmert and Bush vision in respect to an agreement with the Palestinians by the end of 2008? Will she embark on a military operation in Gaza, or continue the lull? Will she release hundreds of Palestinians with “blood on their hands” and bring Gilad Shalit back home? And what about the negotiations with the Syrians and struggle against the Iranian nuclear threat?
It is important to qualify this: At this point we are talking about polls; the race in Kadima is wide open. Moreover, even if she defeats her three primaries rivals, forming a new government in the current Knesset at present would not be an easy task. Still, we decided to examine five key points based on the positions recently expressed by the foreign minister and based on conversations with her and her close associates.
Palestinian state – Livni objects to a temporary and conditioned agreement in principle, and believes that aspiring for such deal could lead to frustration and renewed violence, as happened following Camp David. She espouses “detailed negotiations, while firmly insisting on Israel’s interests, until a permanent agreement is reached.” In her view, now is the time to do this, as this may be the last window of opportunity where Israel would be able to formulate a diplomatic plan in line with its needs, rather than an international or pan-Arab decree. Yes, serious concessions will be required. However, she promises to insist on Jerusalem, prevent the return of refugees, keep the large settlement blocs in our hands, and other issues. Livni will attempt to facilitate cooperation between the two states on issues of water, the economy, and other civilian affairs. Progress will depend on Mahmoud Abbas’ ability to implement the understandings and obligations. In Livni’s view, Gaza was and remains and obstacle – without resolving it, there would be no Palestinian state.
Hamastan – The foreign minister was among those pushing for a declaration of Gaza as a “hostile entity.” In her view, it is a terror entity in every way. She supports the continued Hamas isolation by the international community and laments the lack of response to violations of the current lull. Fire should be met with fire, she says; violations should be responded to, so that the other side realizes there is no forgiveness for them. No, she would not hesitate to embark on a military operation in Gaza if it would be clear that it serves Israel’s goals. Yet a military operation is not the only possibility. In any case, as was proven by the Second Lebanon War, first we must clearly define the operation’s objectives.
Gilad Shalit – A particularly charged and complex issue for Livni. On the one hand, she feels obligated to return the living soldier back home as part of the moral commitment of any government to its soldiers. Yet on the other hand, the question of price is very problematic in her view. It is for good reason that she was recently removed by Olmert from the committee charged with easing the release terms of Palestinians with “blood on their hands.” If she serves as Israel’s prime minister, she intends to continue the tough indirect negotiations vis-à-vis Hamas, as capitulation could signal giving in to radicals. In her view, any concession to radicals, and certainly when it comes to securing the release of a hostage, could prompt future abductions.
Syria – Livni doesn’t like the indirect talks currently being managed via Turkish mediation. She objects both to the indirect nature of the talks and to their substance. She is highly skeptical whether the Syrians are indeed interested in peace, or rather, only in talks. Peace will require them to disconnect from the “axis of evil,” end their support for terror groups, and curb arms smuggling to Hizbullah. Yet negotiations without peace, as she fears is happening in practice, would enable the Syrians to evade all those commitments. Her associates say that if she becomes PM, she would continue the talks – but demand clarifications from the Syrians before anything else. “Peace is not only about eating hummus in Damascus,” she keeps on saying. “Peace means full, genuine peace.”
Iran – “Livni is keeping all options on the table,” her associates say, hinting that a military option is a possibility. Perhaps not now, but it’s a possibility. Perhaps not by Israel alone, but it’s a possibility. However, until that time comes, Livni believes there’s still a long road ahead of us. If she will become PM, her associates say, she will make it clear that Israel is not on the forefront of this struggle, but rather, “part of the world fighting against nukes at the hands of a radical figure such as Ahmadinejad.” So what will we be doing? Acting much more vigorously on the global level to tighten the sanctions – at the Security Council, among countries that maintain ties with Iran, and also among private bodies such as banks, companies, plants, and institutions.
Well, these are Tzipi Livni’s policy guidelines when it comes to diplomacy and security. “What you see is what you get,” she keeps on saying. Nothing is hidden. If we can sum it up with one sentence, then compared to Ehud Olmert’s policies, Livni may give more – yet it will be more of the same.