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According to Israeli TV exit polls Foreign minister Tzipi Livni has won the Kadima party primary. Although the results are by no means conclusive, the exit polls gave Livni a victory of 47.2 %.

Story Transcript

Livni poised to be next Israeli PM
Producer: Zaa Nkweta

ZAA NKWETA (VOICEOVER): According to Israeli TV exit polls, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has won the Kadima party primary. Although the results are by no means conclusive, the exit polls gave Livni a victory of 47.2 percent. A candidate must receive at least 40 percent of the votes in order to avoid a runoff. Livni’s Kadima party convened the primary to choose a successor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is being forced from office by a corruption scandal. It remains unclear how long Olmert will remain in power. But with Livni looking as if she may be his successor, questions about Israel and its relationship with the international community remain.

Washington DC
Via phone

DANIEL LEVY, POLITICAL ANALYST: Tzipi Livni as prime minister on the Palestinian track: Livni has been the head of the negotiation team with the Palestinians. What we can say is that Tzipi Livni is certainly not averse to negotiating with Palestinian leadership, not averse to conducting serious negotiations, not averse to showing flexibility on core issues. But we don’t yet know if she can continue to travel to the place where you could actually strike a workable two-state solution. She is unequivocally in support of a two-state solution, but the details here matter a great deal, and unless there is clarification—and we don’t have that clarification yet—on what the bottom line would be regarding the exact territorial dimensions, the exact land swap, Jerusalem, and being able to show some, at least, empathy on the refugee issue, which is not clear yet, and Livni has been quite careful on this issue, not just about the practical arrangement of Palestinians entering Israel, but also being able to understand that this is a very important narrative. If you don’t see that flexibility, then I don’t think we would be able to get a deal. The one thing I would flag is that Livni was not an ardent supporter of the ceasefire with Hamas, has taken a position on Hamas which is not [inaudible] with the more realist, pragmatic camp. I would worry about that. But I’m not sure whether we heard the last word from Livni in terms of her position [with] Hamas. On the Syria track, she has not been positive about the talks being conducted. The reason for that is that she’s been excluded from those talks. She is the foreign minister, but this channel was conducted basically without her involvement and probably without her knowledge at some stage by the prime minister’s office. So I think that is a factor. I hope that Livni would not pursue the kind of preconditions for talking to Syria that have not got Israel anywhere and has not got America anywhere. I’m not sure as prime minister whether she would continue this track or not. First of all, you have amongst most of the senior military in Israel a consensus to having negotiations with the Syrians. So Livni would certainly be listening to that professional opinion. She has said that she understands the price of peace with Syria, which of course is a withdrawal from Golan. I do think that there is some cause for concern for whether Livni would continue a Syria negotiation or not. In Israel I don’t think there is a decision that has been made regarding what is Israel’s bottom line on Iran. In the absence of such a decision, the position has been Israel will let it be known to the world that Israel is seriously considering any option, in the hopes that this would encourage the world to treat very seriously and take harsher measures against Iran as a way of foreclosing any nuclear weapons option. Livni more or less goes along with that consensus position of supporting engagement, supporting sanctions, and hoping that sanctions can deliver a non-military solution on the Iranian question.


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Daniel Levy Daniel Levy is a Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation. He serves as editor of The Middle East Channel, an online initiative of Foreign Policy Magazine and the Project on Middle East Political Science at George Washington University together with NAF’s Middle East Task Force. The site has rapidly become the premiere destination for informed online discussion of the Middle East.

During the Barak Government of 1999-2001, Levy worked in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office as special adviser and head of Jerusalem Affairs, following which Mr. Levy worked as senior policy adviser to then Israeli Minister of Justice, Yossi Beilin. In this capacity he was responsible for coordinating policy on various issues including peace negotiations, civil and human rights, and the Palestinian minority in Israel. Mr. Levy was a member of the official Israeli delegation to the Taba negotiations with the Palestinians in January 2001, and previously served on the Israeli negotiating team to the "Oslo B"" Agreement from May to September 1995