Kadima Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is now hailed as 'Mrs Clean' and the new 'moderate hope' for resolving the Palestinian issue. In truth, neither she nor Kadima's more hawkish notables - Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz - indicate any substantive shift on the key final status issues – notably, complete disengagement of the West Bank settlements.
Reviews of Livni's political character suggest a shift from idealogue to pragmatist. Displacing much of her ultra-nationalist background - her father was a leading Irgun member - Livni claims a willingness to sacrifice land in order to secure Israel's 'democratic integrity'. The precedent cited is Israel's 'disengagement' from Gaza. Yet, this is another standard reading of Israel's 'benign withdrawal' narrative, as suggested in this piece of BBC spin:
“A former protege of Ariel Sharon, she helped broker Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and has championed a vision of Israel co-existing with a Palestinian state, say analysts.”While noting Livni's role here, such accounts tell us nothing about the cynical thinking behind the 'withdrawal' and how Israel has merely shifted from a policy of "direct control to remote control" in order to intensify its strangulation of Gaza.
Livni has, discomfortingly for Israeli and US hawks, offered a 'private' opinion that an Iranian nuclear capability poses little existential threat to Israel.
Yet, this rational calculus has not been accompanied by any public reticence in demonising Ahmadinejad. Livni's hostility towards Tehran remains open and vociferous. As with her resolute agenda of retaining the West Bank settlements, Livni's verbal assault on the 'scheming mullahs' remains a standard fixture of Israeli politics.
And so, the pantomime electoral process is played-out one more time. Or should that be two more times? Everything, it seems, is again 'on hold' for the 'peace process' as we await the outcomes of the Israeli 'changeover' and the US presidential election. Will Livni, if installed, bring new impetus to the 'Annapolis process'? Will Obama, despite his pro-Israeli assurances, use the moment, if elected, to sponsor a serious peace deal?
The real truth for the Palestinians and all those seeking an end to the Occupation is more prosaic. It lies not in these electoral modifications and the contingencies of political replacements. It lies in the Palestinians' own determination to realise justice on their own terms, as a proto-state, unhindered by the conditionalities of extraneous elections and 'new-hope' leaders. As one sober voice puts it:
"In the region it is the season for the regular ritual of watching US and Israeli elections to build hopes or disappointment based on who might fill the leadership seats. We have been doing this for decades without it ever advancing our causes or mitigating our political failures. Has the time not come to realize that we have to take our affairs into our own hands and have others watch our elections instead, and at last respect the results and the will of the people?"Beyond the media gaze, with all their electoral fascinations and speculations on Livni and Obama, a more simple actuality prevails: there is no serious peace process, and Palestinians cannot place their hopes or trust in other incoming leaders to effect one. Any true resolution will have to start from looking at the legitimate case for peace, justice and sovereignty inside Palestine, not how the political weather looks at this moment in Tel Aviv or Washington.