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It so happens that the “people’s desire” has been gauged by polls. One at the end of last month found 54% of Israelis rejecting an extension of the settlement freeze and only 39% favoring it. Another one this month found 68% of Israelis saying Netanyahu was better suited to be prime minister than Livni.
This did not come, of course, from a lack of desire for peace, but from an understanding that acting without a backbone, constantly projecting a willingness to concede, and a lack of principles and red lines, is not a path to peace but to perceived weakness and war—as bitterly demonstrated to Israelis over the past two decades by their Oslo, Lebanon, and Gaza concessions.
With Livni as unpopular as she is, one might ask if her words matter at this stage. The answer is that they fit a pattern that has prevailed since a Likud-led government first took office in Israel in 1977—whereby the left-of-center opposition, formerly led by the Labor Party and now by Livni’s Kadima Party, adopts the stance that peace with the Palestinian or Arab side is there for the taking and it’s the elected Israeli government that prevents it.
Indeed, by the time Labor returned to power in 1992, it seemed to have convinced itself of that idea to the point that it launched the disastrous, bloody Oslo “process” with Yasser Arafat. And beyond the grievous harm that the “peace equals concessions” mentality causes within Israel, it reinforces all those abroad who blame the conflict on Israel and ignore the facts about Palestinian and Arab rejection of a Jewish state.
There is no record, for instance, of the TV interviewer asking Livni if she herself believes Israel can make peace with the rulers of Gaza—Hamas. Nor does she seem to have been reminded that the prime minister she served under, Ehud Olmert, admitted that Abbas, for his part, had turned down flat Olmert’s own ultra-dovish peace offer—or been asked why she posits that a further offer to Abbas would meet a different fate.
The second above-cited poll also found that, if elections were held in Israel today, the Likud-led right-wing bloc would grow from 65 to 73 Knesset seats (out of 120) while the left-wing and Arab bloc now led by Livni’s Kadima would shrink from 55 seats to 47. In brief, the Israeli public is no longer buying the “peace is there for the taking if we make all the concessions” line.
Livni, in continuing to push that line, keeps harming Israel, but also seems intent on making herself a political nonplayer.
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