OneVoice, the grassroots movement that “aims to amplify the voice of Israeli and Palestinian moderates,” has run many an interesting event since its establishment in 2002. Last week it ran one of the most innovative to date — a discussion, held in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, with students on prospects for a two-state solution. This was followed on Tuesday with an event that cemented OneVoice’s emerging reputation as the peace organization that is reaching the Israeli mainstream — a discussion on the future of the two-state solution at Tel Aviv University, headlined by Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.
The Tel Aviv event provided an interesting insight in to the sharp differences between Livni and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even since the latter has embraced the two-state solution. The big bone of contention, it was clear from Livni’s comments, is Netanyahu’s idea of “economic peace.” Livni claimed that “those politicians who thought that the world would accept an ‘economic peace’ but not the real thing are finding out that no such thing exists.” She added:
Any attempt to create solutions that are not leading to the end of the conflict is a historical mistake on behalf of Israel. Any postponement or an idea about a [Palestinian] state in temporary borders would leave the conflict standing and lead to further weakening of Israel’s positions. This has nothing to do with Israel’s interests.
… When Israel only says “no” and doesn’t present its formula to ending the conflict — the world will not stand by its side. There is no party that is more or less committed to security — this is not a political matter.
Aipac’s big show of the morning was, of course, Israeli president Shimon Peres. The president found himself praising his long rival Benjamin Netanyahu, and vouching for Bibi’s intention to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinian.
But some of the more interesting comments were heard behind closed doors, in the sessions that organizers decided to close to the press. Such was one of the main dinner events Sunday night that featured White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and former Israeli foreign minister, now leader of the opposition, Tzipi Livni.
Emanuel went straight to what used to be considered the third rail in U.S.–Israel relations: He linked the peace process with the Iranian nuclear threat. According to press reports, Emanuel said that effective American efforts to deal with Iran hinge on Israel moving forward with the Palestinians.
At the same event, Tzipi Livni gave Aipac activists a different perspective on Israeli policy and, contrary to Netanyahu’s approach, said there is an immediate need to take on Israeli–Palestinian peacemaking.
Israeli Arabs have never been so in demand, and they have the strong showing of the hard-line anti-Arab Yisrael Beiteinu party to thank. This is the thesis of the novelist and satiric columnist Sayed Kashua in Haaretz. Kashua, one of the country’s best-known Israeli Arab writers, has a knack of giving a great insight in to the complexities of Israeli-Arab identity, which he alludes to so entertainingly this essay.
Late last week when President Shimon Peres chose Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form the new government, every Israeli, whatever their political opinions, had reason to celebrate.
This is no endorsement of the hawkish Likud party. Rather, it is a simple observation that in the days between the election and Peres’ decision, newspapers here became as dull as dishwater.
For almost a fortnight, newspapers had nothing to say, except to speculate which party’s leader various factions would recommend to Peres. And it was hardly rocket science to predict that the right-wing parties, a majority, would endorse the right-wing option, Netanyahu.
There was even detailed coverage of Kadima going to tell Peres whom it favored for Prime Minister (amazingly its own Livni) and Likud going to make its nomination (yes, Netanyahu).
Every month, Tel Aviv University pollsters gauge Israeli public opinion. Here are the numbers, just in, from their latest poll:
• 17% of people are happy with the election results and 43% are disappointed.
• 90% of people would vote the same way if given the chance to vote again.
• Kadima is more popular than Likud, like it was in the election. If polls were held again, 30% of people would vote Kadima and 27% would vote Likud.
• Regarding their preference for Prime Minister, 37.5% of people want Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and 37.6% want Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.
• 36% of people want a unity government of Likud, Kadima and Labor. 22% want a Likud-led rightist coalition and 16% want a coalition of Likud, Kadima and Yisrael Beitenu.
• Some 77% of people think that the release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit should be a prerequisite to any Israel-Hamas ceasefire agreement.
• A third of people are content with the results of the recent Gaza operation (Operation Cast Lead); 36% are disappointed.
After casting her vote at a Tel Aviv polling station, Livni called on Israelis to do the same despite stormy weather. “I have just done what I want every citizen in Israel to do — first of all to get out of the house, rain or no rain, cold or hot, go out, go to the polling station, go into the booth, close your eyes, and vote,” Livni said.
Well, some Israeli commentators have argued that Livni and her rivals to the left and the right — Labor’s Ehud Barak and Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu — haven’t done much in their campaign rhetoric to distinguish themselves, so maybe it doesn’t matter whether one votes with eyes open or shut.
Some Israeli voters, meanwhile, are sure to be holding their noses.
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni is known for her rather stuffy and humorless image. This week she attempted to shake it. Literally.
She tried her best to dance the night away, or at least the precise segment of it scheduled by her publicity people, at a party organized by young Kadima supporters at the super-trendy Tel Aviv nightclub Haoman 17.
The late-night news shows, accustomed to commenting on her political moves, spent a considerable amount of airtime analyzing her dance moves. And they weren’t too impressed. Her style was a mixture of over-exaggerated head-bopping and the kind of enthusiastic clapping done by people at weddings who are trying to look as if they’re taking part while avoiding dancing.
Trying to capture the young vote has been a high priority for Kadima in recent weeks — and it hasn’t been easy. Part of the problem is that the party has is that sober centrism doesn’t have the same appeal to Israeli youth as more forthrightly ideological parties. “I am a pragmatist, favoring a central path over the traditional definitions of right and left” is hardly a slogan likely to play well on college campuses.
But it’s not stopped some young people trying to portray Kadima and Livni cool. Attempting to replicate the success of the “Obama Girl” video, an Israeli actor named Liron Avisar cast himself as “Livni Boy” in a video he posted on YouTube.
“Oh Tzipi, you’re what I wanted, all that I expected from a political leader,” the Hebrew-English chorus goes. “I don’t want Ehud. I don’t trust Bibi. Tzipi if you let me, I will be your man. Just tell me yes.”
Labor leader Ehud Barak has also tried to get in with the hip crowd during this campaign. He appeared as himself in “A Wonderful Country,” a satirical television show, which regularly has a laugh at his expense.