Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bibi and Tzipi: Listen to the Electorate!

With no clear winner in the elections, both Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni need to rise above their egos (and parties) and to accept the fact that they hold the key to a center-right national unity government, which could bring one of the most stable governments Israel has seen in decades. This is not a stretch of the imagination; it is common sense.

Benjamin Netanyahu needs to understand that a Netanyahu-Lieberman government will bring Israel to such a state of international isolation that the damage could be irreversible. More disastrous, Israel will continue to be tied into the current fatal quagmire with the Palestinians. Now is the time for Netanyahu to come clean to his constituency. The clock is ticking, and not like in the past, the time is on the Palestinians’ side. A strong center-right government can reach an agreement with the Palestinians; it is just a matter of will.

Undoubtedly, Livni also needs to come clean and declare in a strong voice that only with the Likud can Kadima form a stable government. Let us not fool ourselves: the ideological differences between Livni and Netanyahu might be substantial but among most of their party members there is no real gap. For years, Likud was Livni’s political home, along with a great number of Kadima’s members. And, simply put, even if Livni could muster up 61 seats in the parliament, her hands would be tied making it impossible to reach a peace agreement. Therefore, let’s be honest: politically Livni and Netanyahu are in desperate need of each other!

In addition to a comprehensive peace agreement, a center-right government can provide Israel with a government able to tackle the serious economic problems plaguing great parts of the society. They could strengthen education and ensure that Israel continues to lead in the sciences. The list goes on and on.

The next few days and weeks will reveal whether or not Bibi Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni can overcome their differences and demonstrate political maturity and national responsibility on the highest level. I might be a leftist but I am also a realist and a democrat. The Israeli public has overwhelmingly chosen both Kadima and Likud and it should be these two parties that form the basis of the future Israeli government. In the meantime, the Israeli left will need the time to reorganize in order to offer the electorate a viable option, in the case that after a full term the Netanyau-Livni option fails.

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