Tzipi Livni was offended by my article on the illusions she sold us. She responded to me by saying that I am only a political commentator and I am biased and I am arrogant to think that after five minutes in a room with Mahmud Abbas I’d have an agreement signed. Fine. I get it. And she was justifiably offended because I wrote some pretty harsh things.
What has she done to deserve that? Her intentions are good and she has invested so much time and energy in the peace talks. Unfortunately, in the complex world of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations one needs more than just good intentions. Creativity and bravery are also necessary, and sometimes not even that is enough (Shlomo Ben Ami had both of those in spades and it still didn’t make him succesfull).
I will start off by saying that it took some nerve for Livni to write that she has fought to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in every position she has occupied over the past few decades. In numerous interviews she has said that she entered politics because of the Oslo Accords, but she is very modest about the fact that she entered politics to fight against the Oslo Accords— to bury them. It was only sometime in 2004-2005, about ten years ago, that she began to zig-zag left, but let’s leave the historical accounts aside.
Livni says that everything had been discussed except Jerusalem, which the negotiating teams left for last. That is such an absurd statement it only serves to further the idea that Livni was not the right person to oversee the negotiations. Is Jerusalem a minor subject that you can just leave for the end, once all the big issues have been taken care of? Is it really even possible to finalize an agreement on issues like refugees, borders, and security before sorting out Jerusalem?
By the way, even in private discussions, when she has been asked many times over the years about her stance on the status of Jerusalem in a final agreement, she refused to answer. Not off the record, not on the record. She wouldn’t hint and she wouldn’t imply. Livni was apparently so afraid of the political repercussions for belonging to the leper colony of those who supported dividing Jerusalem that she was not prepared to actually be part of it. How is it possible to present an alternative to the right without saying anything that differs from it? Netanyahu says: the 1967 borders can serve as an outline but the major settlement blocs will remain part of Israel. Livni says the same thing. Netanyahu says no Palestinian refugees will be allowed to return. Livni says the same thing. Netanyahu say he will not give up a single inch of Jerusalem. Livni doesn’t say anything at all. What is the difference?
Once Livni told me that her main achievement in the negotiations was an agreement on the security arrangement. Really? I asked. What agreement? Will an Israeli military force stay in the Jordan Valley? For how long? Who owns the air space? Who will control the border crossing with Jordan? No, they didn’t manage to agree on that, but the Palestinian negotiators agreed to the clause that their future state would be demilitarized. Or more correctly, Livni concocted a creative innovation. The agreement won’t say the state will be “demilitarized,” but “not armed.” What an achievement. It was worth the four or so meetings between her and Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala’). It doesn’t matter that the Palestinians have always said they had no intention of forming an army or air force for their state. An achievement is an achievement.
On Tuesday on Hamakor we will broadcast the third part of the series about the efforts to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians. The three relevant political leaders — Mahmud Abbas, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert– sat down with us for an interview. Once more, Livni will not be the star of the show.
Translated by Ari Heistein