Livni's Careful Calculus
In many large Japanese companies, once a new CEO is crowned, his rivals are either retired or sent to run smaller companies in the keiretsu of related firms. At GE, once Jeff Immelt was anointed Jack Welch's successor, his rivals went off to lead other large and unrelated companies. In these cases, the rivals were no longer around to lead competing power centers.
Of course, politics seldom provides such clean solutions to power struggles. Losers in an election do not always go away and may even retain an elected position where they can either support or oppose the winner. A rare example of a defeated presidential candidate supporting the winner was Wendell Willkie who after opposing FDR in the 1940 presidential election supported his policy and preparations for World War II. It cost Willkie his Republican constituency.
However, when a country is at war, there is a strong reason for a losing candidate to support the winner. Facing wars and terror attacks continually throughout its history, Israel has been governed by unity cabinets in every decade of its existence. In the past week, Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Tzipi Livni to join him to deal with Israel's challenges. But Netanyahu's motives are not clear. He is either cynically trying to use Livni's peace credentials to avoid any real land concessions or negotiations toward a two-state agreement with the Palestinians, or he really wants to move toward a two-state solution but cannot do so without Kadima because Likud and its far right allies oppose any such agreement.
Livni has stated that she believes Netanyahu just wants to use her to cover his policy and avoid having to ally himself with smaller self-interested parties that would block his flexibility. She has tested him by demanding a rotating prime minister role which he has rejected. Possibly Netanyahu, as a right-wing militarist, could win a lasting peace by removing settlers from the West Bank, ceding a piece of Jerusalem and after successfully building the Palestinian economy, move toward a two-state solution. He could make a place for himself in history as a great statesman.
Livni is right that until he moves toward that end, she should not be his fig leaf for getting away with saying no to two-state negotiations. That would betray the voters who supported her. But she should be alert to the possibility that Netanyahu changes course, remaining in position to take over if his government fails.
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