Another Good Year for the Undertaker?

Another Good Year for the Undertaker?

by Gila Svirsky

As Carole King sings:

    You know, the people were quite pleased

    ‘Cause the outlaw had been seized

    And on the whole, it was a very good year

    For the undertaker.

Well, the alleged outlaw, Ehud Olmert, awaits indictment, probably on

charges of fraud, abuse of public trust, maybe bribery, too.  The evidence

draws a portrait of a man committed to the good life and political

aggrandizement, but it does not point to a major scheme for financial

bonanza.  Olmert was not toppled because of corruption (Sharon and Arafat

both maintained their popularity through multiple corruption scandals), but

because he delivered to Israel its first loss at war – in Lebanon, of


And now Tzipi Livni – scion of a militant dynasty, graduate of Mossad covert

operations, protegee of Arik Sharon – was elected head of the ruling party

in Israel, and she too talks about change, a new way of doing politics, a

preference for peace over territory.  This is not a course correction, but

the deepening of a direction that had been taken by Sharon and reinforced by

Olmert, his successor.  All three had been staunch advocates of “the greater

land of Israel” ideology until recent years.  Investing in the occupied

territories had been a mistake, a long and expensive mistake, said Olmert

this morning in a post-election interview.

But can we count on Livni to do the right thing, to sit down and negotiate a

peace that will be acceptable to both sides – a two-state solution that

shares Jerusalem as the capital, a just and viable scenario for the

Palestinian refugees, an equitable distribution of water resources,

investment in the development of Palestine to ensure its economic viability?

Tzipi Livni is not Mother Teresa nor the Dalai Lama.  She probably more

closely resembles Alfred Nobel himself, once called a “merchant of death”

for inventing and commercializing dynamite.  Livni, too, served the military

establishment in Israel until she left it for a law career.  What made her

leave?  Rumors abound, but Livni is reticent about this as in other areas.

Will she, like Nobel, also seek a place in history by making up for years of

feeding the war machine?

Livni will have many obstacles, the first being to forge a government

coalition that will include partners who are not on her side.  Then she will

have to overcome the deeply rooted existential fear of Israelis, which

peace-making evokes.  Finally, she will have to take risks of substance,

facing down the Israeli war makers, standing up to settlers with their

implied threat of a divisive and bloody civil war.

Two years ago, Livni was the only Israeli cabinet member who spoke out

against launching an all-out war in Lebanon at a moment when a frenzy of

vengeance and nationalism gripped the entire nation.

Can we expect more such political and moral courage?  Dare we be hopeful? 

Or will it again be another good year for the undertaker?

Gila Svirsky

Jerusalem, Israel