False Dichotomies

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Archive for December 2nd, 2012

Movement to Nowhere: Tzipi Livni vs the National Interest

In response to the claim that, in forming ‘The Movement’, Tzipi Livni had put her ego above the national interest, a friend wrote the following: “I think you are wrong about Livni – she isn’t about ego but issues. She looks around the centre-left and sees Lapid who will rush to join the next government and refuses to consider dividing Jerusalem and Shelly who essentially has no qualms with Bibi’s diplomatic policies. If nobody wants to talk about the Palestinians then she should go alone. Finally someone worthy to vote for.”

First, I think this is unfair on both Lapid and Yachimovich. The latter has almost single-handedly resurrected Labour from the dead – this has undoubtedly been an impressive achievement. Nevertheless, she faces a similar problem that Livni once faced; namely, that she is a woman with no security experience (this is the result of chauvinism and an over-reliance on ‘security’ types, but it remains a reality to be contended with). And when the electorate looks at the Labour list they don’t see many candidates with strong security credentials. As a result, taking a dovish stance or putting the Palestinian issue to the forefront would be suicidal. This is why she has done everything in her power to ensure that Labour isn’t seen as a left-wing party (thus losing my vote in the process) and why she seemed to be trying to out-right the right-wing in her vitriol during Pillar of Cloud. But this doesn’t mean that her Palestinian policy would be the same as Bibi’s, or that she would be less likely to join the coalition than Livni.

Lapid seems more likely than Labour to join the coalition, which is another reason why I won’t vote for him, but that’s another consequence of Israel’s absurd system, where a party with 10 seats can emerge from an election with more power than a party with 20. My main issue with Lapid is that he’s vapid, and there is little to distinguish him from an already crowded field. But I don’t see why he’s any more likely to join the coalition than Livni.

Even if my friend’s claims were true, however, I still don’t think ‘The Movement’ would be justified. And it’s partly because I agree with my friend that the Palestinian issue is so pressing that I think this way. We are on the verge of a situation where the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history will be replaced by an even more right-wing coalition, and where Yisrael Beitenu’s list may turn out to be more moderate than the Likud one. Far from confronting Israel’s existential problems, a Bieberman government will only make them worse. All that matters is beating Likud Beitenu. And, although the polling has been consistently discouraging, there remains one way in which the tide might be turned: a grand centre-left coalition led by the most popular centre-left politician. Currently that person seems to be Shelly Yachimovich.

If this wasn’t a possibility, Bibi wouldn’t have needed to team up with Lieberman. The only positive to come out of that decision was that it offered the possibility to simplify Israel’s bloated political arena. There may be differences between Yesh Atid and Labour and Meretz and The Movement, but are they any more significant than, say, the differences between the left and right of the Labour party in the UK? It’s easy to forget that Israel’s system rewards extremism; the only solution to this problem is the formation of two blocks, one left and one right, to slug it out for supremacy. If Livni had accepted Yachimovich’s offer and had become her number two, and if Lapid had followed suit, this would have been a possibility. As things stand, all she has done is take votes from Labour and Yesh Atid, while the right-wing majority remains unthreatened. Given the circumstances Israel currently finds itself, circumstances which have been made significantly worse by the government’s inept response to the Palestinians’ statehood bid in the UN, this is inexcusable.

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