Mel Frykberg
The Middle East Times
March 3, 2009 - 1:00am

Kadima chairwoman and Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has lashed out at prime minister-designate and leader of the hawkish Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, for being an extremist and unwilling to compromise with the Palestinians.

"Netanyahu is more extreme than Lieberman, who doesn't rule out a two-state solution. Netanyahu isn't even willing to discuss it," said Livni on Friday after meeting with him to discuss the possibility of Likud and Kadima joining forces in a unity government.

"The meeting ended fruitlessly," said Livni. "Based on that meeting, I am not going to be part of a Netanyahu government."

Livni was referring to Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party which won 15 seats in last month's Israeli elections making it a kingpin in the formation of the next government.

Lieberman is a far-rightist who lives in an illegal Israeli settlement on the West Bank and was once a member of the racist and outlawed Kach party which advocates ethnic cleansing and the forcible transfer of Israeli-Arabs.

Kach is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

But Livni's point was that even Lieberman is prepared to discuss a two-state solution to resolve the protracted political conflict with the Palestinians.

Lieberman's motivation, however, is far from altruistic. He basically fears that should the two-state resolution not be implemented, the higher birthrate of the Palestinians would ensure that Israel ceased to be a Jewish state due to demographics.

And Livni has stuck to her guns about the need for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Not only did she rule out joining forces with Netanyahu but she also rejected her party's number-two, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz's suggestion to set up negotiating teams with Likud to formulate a possible platform for any future government.

Netanyahu has stated repeatedly over the years that he would never support the establishment of a Palestinian state as outlined under international law and various U.N. Security Council resolutions.

There are political reasons behind this for starters. To express his support for a two-state solution would alienate a potential coalition with the right-wing National Union and Habayit Hayehudi parties which would force him into a rotational government with Livni.

Furthermore, opposing an independent Palestinian state has always been part of his ideology. This has made him deliberately vague when questioned directly about the issue by the media.

While refusing to bluntly say no to the option, he has used ambiguous language, saying that he doesn't want to rule over the Palestinians and has no interest in the West Bank cities while reiterating that Palestinians should be able to rule over their own lives.

It appears that the most he is prepared to offer is a limited kind of autonomy as he is denying the Palestinians four basic rights of any sovereign state.

These include control of its airspace, control of its electromagnetic spectrum, an army and the right to sign military alliances, and control over its border crossings.

According to Israeli Daily Haaretz journalist and political analyst Aluf Benn, Netanyahu's strategy is based on the theory of Stanford University political science professor Stephen Krasner, who was director of policy planning in the U.S. State Department under Condoleezza Rice.

Krasner's theory is based along the lines of "restricted sovereignty" as a model for "problematic states."

Netanyahu also believes in playing hardcore with the Palestinians. Demanding as much as possible for very little in return, even more so than Ehud Olmert and Livni.

He believes that Israel should not withdraw from the West Bank in advance until all Israel's preconditions are met completely.

The prime minister-designate would also then insist on retaining 50 percent of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert as security zones.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the region on her way to Jerusalem, after attending the donor's conference for the rehabilitation of Gaza in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Clinton has made it very clear that the new U.S. administration supports an Israeli-Palestinian peace process based on the two-state solution.

This brings into question how much U.S. President Barack Obama and his new team will force the Israelis on the issue, considering the enormous political clout they influence over the Jewish State as well as the enormous economic support they provide.

As has happened previously in Israel's history, some of the most uncompromising and extremist Israeli leaders have often proved the most flexible when it comes to peace with their Arab neighbors.

Examples include hawks such as former Israeli premier Menachem Begin returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for a peace treaty. Another former far-right prime minister Ariel Sharon evacuated Israeli settlers from Gaza.

Conversely current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, erroneously regarded as very generous toward the Palestinians during the Oslo Accords, was prime minister when illegal settlement building in the Palestinian West Bank accelerated at an unprecedented pace despite Israeli promises to the contrary.

The bottom line will depend on how firm Washington is prepared to be with Tel Aviv and whether they will back that firmness with economic and political pressure which in turn could force Netanyahu into an Israeli maverick.


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