Speaking of minimalism, Tzipi Livni’s attempts to take the high road and speak and act with integrity are backfiring and will almost certainly cost her the upcoming election. First, she refused to wheel and deal with Shas, thereby preventing the creation of a coalition that would have enabled her to rule. She was attempting to act responsibly, in the manner that many Israelis complain does not exist among Israeli politicians. Her stance against being blackmailed is admirable but she misread the cynical Israeli public that saw this as a failure. She was a “fryer,” (a sucker) for not taking a deal that would have let her govern.
The public is right. It’s better to govern than not govern and she could have attempted to sideline Shas once she was in power. Out of power, however, she has little influence. This will be even more true if the Likud wins as many seats as the polls are projecting and may be able to form a coalition without Kadima. It doesn’t help anybody if you’re sitting in the cold, lonely seats of the out-of-power opposition.
Livni also spoke honestly about Shalit, saying that Israel might not be able to release him or have him released. She was taken to task over this statement, compelled to meet with advocates for Shalit’s freedom (aren’t we all advocates for this?). She wasn’t just criticized by civilians, the IDF got into the fray informing reporters that no effort is or will be spared in releasing Israeli soldiers.
Livni, of course, spoke the truth. But people don’t want truth. People would rather say Shalit should be freed at any price. If it means sending soldiers into what could be a trap, so be it. If it means releasing terrorist murderers who will go back to a life of violence and kill and maim innocent civilians, so be it.
“We cannot leave the children alone to suffer,” say the parents. Who wouldn’t say that if their child was in cruel captivity. But shalit wasn’t a child, he was a soldier. He was a soldier on a front line of a war. He is paying the price for being a soldier, unfair though it is. Sure, he deserves to be freed and the Israeli government should know that its price will be higher than what it paid Hizbullah for dead soldiers. After all, Shalit is alive.
But the Israelis cannot pay any price and Hamas finds Shalit to be a convenient hammer to use to smash Israel over and over. They are not seriously in the market to bargain, which is why they keep pushing the price to intolerable levels: it leaves the Israeli government looking like it’s too cheap to pay the price and it sows doubts in the hearts of Israeli parents and Israeli soldiers. Shalit also serves as a life insurance policy for Hamas leaders. If he’s gone, they could become targets. With him alive, they are left alone so that he won’t be harmed.
It’s a tough situation and one that may not have a resolution in the near term. This is what Tzipi Livni said. But people don’t want to hear the truth. They would rather growl and yell and stomp and threaten. They would rather demand an undesirable solution from their government, than the right solution. This is the same as wanting politicians to act ethically and then punishing a leader who refuses to be blackmailed by a small party. This is why Tzipi Livni will sit in opposition and Bibi Netanyahu will sit in the PM’s office again, growling, yelling, stomping and threatening while outside Hamas will continue to hold on to Shalit and Shas will be laughing all the way to the bank. The voters choose the government they deserve.
So let’s all take a fatalistic deep breath. Relax for a minute. Look outside and see how beautiful winter can be. Breathe in. Let it out. Breathe in. Let it out.