Monday, May 07, 2007


New Presidents, Potential Prime Ministers

The Wall Street Journal featured an interview on Saturday with Tzipora ("Tzipi") Livni, the Foreign Minister of Israel, amid speculations that she might become the next Prime Minister:

On Wednesday, Tzipi Livni gave a press conference calling for Ehud Olmert's resignation in the wake of the Winograd Commission's sharp critique of his performance during the Lebanon war. She also announced she would be challenging him in the Kadima Party primary elections. Mr. Olmert fumed, but stopped short of firing the minister of foreign affairs, aware of her popularity within the party and striving to keep his government above water.
Frankly, I've lost any confidence I used to have in Prime Minister Olmert. The man is a cheap political hack, a shady lawyer who had greatness thrust upon him when Ariel Sharon fell into a coma. He had an opportunity to rise to the occasion last year, when Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hamas and Hizbullah, and Hizbullah started raining rockets down on the northern Galilee -- and he muffed it completely. The fact that Olmert demanded the invasion of Lebanon doesn't bother me; that he agreed to a withdrawal, without getting the prisoners back, bothers me a great deal. But what thoroughly disgusts me is that he publicly insisted that it had never been his ultimate goal to get the prisoners back, and that if Israeli citizens believed him when he said otherwise, that they were foolish to do so.

As far as I'm concerned, the man has been in ofice at least a year too long, and I'll be happy to see him go; I'm glad that the Winograd Commission's report has implicated him, along with Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. But would Ms. Livni be a reasonable replacement?

It's a difficult question. As points out, it's by no means certain that Olmert's government will fall -- or that, if he's forced out, that Ms. Livni would be the one to take over. (She likely would not, for example, if new elections are called, or if a vote of no-confidence against the government succeeds; Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is currently ahead in the polls. For Ms. Livni to take over, Olmert would have to step down -- which he currently seems grimly determined to avoid for as long as possible.)

I'll admit that Ms. Livni's foreign-policy views are a bit too soft for me. (This is consistent with her current role as Foreign Minister; she must be the country's primary diplomat, and she clearly takes that role seriously. I would expect her, therefore, to focus on diplomacy, and to let other ministers deal with other matters, leaving the Prime Minister to decide, for example, if a diplomatic or a military solution is called for. She does this quite well as Foreign Minister; would she be able to let go of that diplomatic single-mindedness as a Prime Minister? There's no way to know for sure, unless she actually gets the job.)

Her background is impressive enough -- a lieutenant in the IDF, a four-year stint with the Mossad, a practicing lawyer, a mother of two, and almost ten years of duty in Israeli parliament and government. (Not bad for a woman who, as of this writing, is not yet 49.) But that doesn't mean much -- Ehud Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israel's history, was a lackluster Prime Minister from 1999 to 2001; he will be remembered chiefly for offering the Palestinians just about everything they asked for, only to watch them reject it.

Israel has had a series of lackluster Prime Ministers, most of whom could do no more than maintain the status quo in Israel's never-ending war with her neighbors. Moving forward requires a true statesman, something that has been lacking in most of Israel's history. Would Ms. Livni rise to that challenge? Again, we won't know unless she gets the chance.

In other news, France has a new President, it seems -- Nicolas Sarkozy has won the election runoff with 53% of the vote. In response, French "youths" are rioting:

Isn't it nice to see the democratic process in action?

Or, as the Ace of Spades snarkily puts it:
The official tally:

730 cars torched.
592 "people" (youths of magically indeterminate ethnic origin perhaps?) arrested.
28 Police Officers injured.

But at least Sarkozy hasn't surrendered.

Which, for France, is saying something.


(In all seriousness, let's hope for some renewed sanity in France -- or some new hope for Parisian can-owners, at least.)

UPDATE: Michael Totten, and his friend and guest-blogger Noah Pollak, have a lot to say in re the Winograd Commission report; and, having traveled extensively in Lebanon at the time, their voices should be heard.

Please note Mr. Pollak's photos also of the recent 100,000-thousand-strong demonstration in Tel Aviv, calling on Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz to step down. (For perspective, that's almost 2% of Israel's entire population, the equivalent of five million American demonstrators.) And don't miss the unforgettable picket-sign, in three words of combined Hebrew, English, and French, at the beginning of this post.

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