Instant gravitas

Tzipi Livni is the embattled leader of Israel’s embattled Kadima Party. Her party was drubbed earlier this year by Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud, and was further marginalized by Livni’s insistence that Kadima repulse Netanyahu’s efforts to bring it into a coalition government. When the Labor Party’s Ehud Barak joined the government, he became a more credible “centrist” than Livni, the leader of the purportedly centrist party.
During the course of this year, Livni’s position continued to erode to the point that Shaul Mofaz seemed to be on the verge of supplanting her as the leader of Kadima. Mofaz’s core charge, that Livni was indecisive and inexperienced, echoed Barak’s view that the former foreign minister “with her background as it is, is not built to make decisions, not at three in the morning and not at three in the afternoon.” Fair or not, polls suggested that this had become the conventional wisdom about Livni.
But this was before reports surfaced that a judge in England had issued an arrest warrant against Livni, who was planning to visit London. Actually, as I understand it, Livni’s trip had already been cancelled because Gordon Brown was unavailable to meet with her. Brown, moreover, assured Livni that she was welcome to come to Britain any time.
None of this really mattered, though. The fact that a British judge had deemed her role in Israel’s military action in Gaza sufficient to justify an arrest warrant elevated Livni, in the words of the Jerusalem Post, to the rank of a chief of General Staff. It also caused virtually the entire Israeli establishment, including Mofaz but not, apparently, Barak, to rally around Livni in part as a genuine act of solidarity but also perhaps to remind Israelis that they too were “in the room” when the decisions about Gaza were made. As Vice Premier Silvan Shalom put it, “we are all Livni.”
Ironically, the British judge’s action came at around the same time it was revealed that Livni had agreed in 2008 to cede to the Palestinians 92.7 percent of the West Bank during negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. By declaring the peace-pursuing Livni a criminal warmonger, the judge saved her from considerable embarrassment.
To the Israeli public, the judge’s action surely reinforces the correct perception that important elements of the international community are so blindly anti-Israel that the pursuit of international approval is futile. For this reason, the judge may not really have done Livni any favors in the long run.

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