The price of unity
By Limor Livnat, Minister of Communications
Jerusalem Post, May 31, 1999
As one who called for a national-unity government to deal with the nation’s
most critical issues long before elections were on the horizon, I find Ehud
Barak’s repeated calls for a broad-based coalition inviting.
Indeed, only a truly representative government can overcome the
political, social, and economic challenges the people of Israel now face.
Prime Minister-elect Barak will not be judged, though, by unifying
rhetoric but by deed, and the only harmonizing action which can pave the way
for the Likud’s entry into the new government is the total neutralization of
Israel’s post-Zionist Left.
This group’s agenda, predicated on the academically popular notion that
Zionism’s role is over, includes: a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights;
first a freeze on and then dismemberment of Jewish communities in Judea,
Samaria and Gaza; the creation of a fully sovereign Palestinian Arab state; and
the redivision of Jerusalem.
It is the agenda of unilateral concessions which guided the last Labor-led
government. The Likud had no part of it then, and if it is to be repeated, must
have no part of it now.
Immediately following Labor’s victory in June 1992, the late Yitzhak Rabin
“I will navigate, I will decide.”
Good intentions aside, Rabin fast became a prisoner of his own
government. It was the radical Left, led by Meretz, Labor’s senior coalition
partner, which “navigated” and “decided” just as Yossi Sarid promised they
Rabin apparently believed that he alone could counterbalance the
pressures from the Left.
That he failed is now history.
Sarid, of course, was not alone.
To most of Labor’s ideologues, Rabin was just a figurehead without
whom they could not have won and then maintained the government. In a
bare-all interview (Ha’aretz, 7/3/97) Yossi Beilin cavalierly admits that he had
no permission to proceed down the Oslo track, and that had he
asked Rabin for permission, it would have been flatly denied. Beilin’s message
is clear: He could not have pursued his version of peacemaking with Rabin, but
once he succeeded he could not sell it without him.
Shortly after these last elections I had the opportunity to meet with the leading
New York Times’ columnist, A. M. Rosenthal. We began our conversation by
wondering aloud if Barak was serious about forming a representative
government or if he would rather go the route of Rabin in 1992.
He then told me of a conversation he had had with Avraham Burg, then
and now a top figure in the Labor Party, one week before the 1992 elections.
He had already spoken to the two contenders for prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir
and Rabin and had found that there was little difference between them on all
the important national issues. He had also met with then-chief of General Staff
Ehud Barak and he, too, had sounded very much the same as the two opposing
When Burg told him about Labor’s concessionary plans for the
post-1967 territories of Israel were they to win, Rosenthal responded that he
did not sound anything like the leader of his own party.
To which Burg retorted, “Rabin is our rocket, but we are the propeller.
We determine which way the rocket will go.”
Once again it is a military hero who has brought the Labor Party a victory at the
polls. Ideologues like Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Burg, did
not and could not bring Labor a victory.
Indeed during the campaign, all were kept well hidden from the public
eye, lest they distract the voters from the meticulously projected military
prowess and security-mindedness of Ehud Barak. No one expects Barak to
continue to keep them in hiding, but if Barak is serious about national unity and
a broad government which includes the Likud, he is going to have to do what it
takes to drastically limit their ability to conduct national policy.
The election results in no way gave the liberal Left a license to run the country
Barak is right when he stresses the need for national healing. He was not
my choice for prime minister, but if he is seriously committed to finding enough
common ground to unite and withstand dangerous foreign and divisive domestic
pressures, if he is determined that no segment of the population shall be
disenfranchised and feel that their country is lost, he may find a cautious but
willing partner ready to help propel the country to a brighter future.