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Friday, December 29, 2006

Painting a rosier future

Painting a rosier future
By Haaretz Editorial

The views that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has expressed recently are a welcome continuation of the prime minister's Sde Boker speech, and even go beyond it. The foreign minister proposes directing efforts toward energetic diplomatic activity with the Palestinians, in an orderly and sustained fashion, and not only as an occasional gesture. She thinks that progress must be made constantly, without being conditioned on progress in the cease-fire. Livni also says that Palestinian good behavior should not be a precondition for goodwill gestures, but only for the agreement that will be signed in the end. And she also calls for bolstering the moderate camp among the Palestinians.
When the Palestinians hold elections, which appears likely to happen in the coming months, they must know what is at stake if they elect Hamas. This is not a threat, just a promise, and it should be made clear at the most practical level. At the end of the day, it is the Palestinians' decision. Currently, the Palestinian voter can see no obvious advantage in voting for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority chairman. But if they are shown a brighter future, with a detailed program for gains; if it is made clear to them what symbols of Palestinian sovereignty they will be given and how their lives might improve, then perhaps there is still a chance for the moderates to win. Israel is the occupier, so it is the one that must present the future that will follow the occupation. Instead of handing out carrots in measured quantities, it must make it clear to the Palestinians that the final target is for them to grow their own carrots and not be dependent on Israel. It is necessary to talk ceaselessly about the stage after the occupation - the stage of separation, independence - and about borders and cooperation.
The foreign minister's moderation; her support for Ehud Olmert's policy of restraint against Amir Peretz; her openness to the world and her willingness to accept their help; her desire for a cease-fire as early as the second day of the war in Lebanon, out of a clear understanding that diplomacy would achieve more than a thousands bombs; her emphasis on the conflict with the Palestinians as the root of the problem; her attempts to deal with Iran in a low-key, discreet way, instead of being drawn into Benjamin Netanyahu's rhetoric; and above all, the optimism that Livni broadcasts and the hope that the Olmert-Livni team, if they cooperate instead of being dragged into prestige battles, could further a genuine agenda - these are the important aspects of the interviews she has granted to the press.
The foreign minister emphasizes that the ball is in the Palestinians' court. The Palestinians are the ones who need to decide whether their aim is to bring about an end to the occupation and the conflict, by deciding between Hamas and Fatah. However, Israel cannot remain an uninvolved observer. It must promote a better future, instead of just talking about it. If the Palestinian voter thinks that nothing will come of supporting Abbas, he will vote accordingly. If instead of continuing to say that Abbas is weak and that, in the end, Hamas will inevitably win, we say that everything depends on the Palestinian voter, and that only he can bring about an end to the Israeli occupation, then perhaps Abbas and his supporters, with the active support of the Arab world, will succeed in tipping the balance.

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