Who Thought Of Trading Tzipi Livni For Salam Fayyad?

Tzipi Livni has reason now to leave Israeli politics for greener fields. Head of Hatnua political party, she wanted to be Prime Minister of Israel and has not been able to break through the political morass to achieve her goal. But her qualities  [Caveat: which some say include the dubious quality of being able to bring about the demise of whatever political party into which she may have just jumped] have not gone unrecognized and in a surprise move, a surprisingly seemingly fair new United Nations Secretary General, has asked her to be his Deputy Secretary General. In Israel, she has been a sometimes large, sometimes medium-sized fish in a small pond, and now she apparently has the opportunity to become a large fish in a large pond.


Whereas for decades the UN has been fighting Israel with sticks and stones, it appears that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has decided to use a carrot.

Guterres wanted to appoint Salam Fayyad, former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, as envoy to Libya. Fayyad is believed capable of turning around the deteriorating situation in Libya where extremism is building up to dangerous levels. According to Colum Lynch, writing in Foreign Affairs, Fayyad is the best man for the job. He is respected internationally, including by Israelis, and is anathema to Hamas. Ilan Goldberg, a member of the Obama government’s Middle East peace negotiation team, supported his appointment.

Fayyad is a model of what the United States and Israel want out of the Palestinian leadership. Period.

Then came the surprise veto of his appointment by the US in the Security Council. Lynch writes that US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley explained that Fayyad’s appointment was just another in a long series of objectionable actions proving the lack of balance (to put it mildly) in favour of the Palestinian Authority and against Israel.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon praised the veto as an act of support for Israel — Fayyad’s appointment apparently would have been seen as promoting Palestinian statehood without the bilateral negotiations formally accepted across the board as a necessary condition for that. Israeli media do not agree on an important point: while the Times of Israel claims that Danon requested the veto on behalf of the Israeli government, Haaretz claims that Israel’s Prime Minister was not consulted by President Trump on this issue.

The offer of this post to Tzipi Livni brings about an interesting situation since her appointment needs to be approved by the same Security Council that just saw the veto regarding Salam Fayyad. Will the quid pro quo work?

I have no doubt Livni is an excellent choice, both for the UN and for us – she is smack dab in the center of Israel’s political map. She is smart and professional. If she was a slicker politician [Caveat: or even just a decent politician, many might argue, or a decent person], she may well have made it to the Prime Minister’s residence. Having the title Deputy Secretary General of the UN would give her a lot of power and would give Israel prestige (and perhaps even more than that). It would also take the target off her back, and those of other Israelis, regarding outstanding arrest warrants for supposed war crimes. [Caveat: The website “PreOccupied Territory” thinks she is a brilliant choice for other reasons — and I strongly recommend you read their piece.]

I do not like the idea that Fayyad was rejected for the sole reason that his appointment was “the last straw”. Fayyad seems to have been a worthy professional for the task at hand and appointments of worthy professionals do not seem to be a hallmark of the UN. However, if vetoing Fayyad will lead to a tit-for-tat whereby a worthy Israeli professional also gets an important UN position, then perhaps it will have been for the best.[Caveat: even though many Israeli wish it would be anyone but her.]

I wonder about the claim that Fayyad’s appointment moves the UN another step closer to declaring “Palestine” a full-fledged state (I still cannot understand why they want to be called by the name given to the vanquished Jews by the conquering Romans, something I see as kind-of humiliating, but that is another issue – and I wrote about it here).

In order to prove the argument that Fayyad’s appointment would promote statehood for “Palestine”, it would have to be shown that no Tibetan has ever held an important or relatively important UN position, no Taiwanese individual, no professional from Kashmir, Catalan, etc. Or, rather, that such a person was suggested for the job and the occupying power made sure he or she did not get it, not just out of spite but from apprehension that it would give legitimacy to claims for sovereignty on behalf of the professional’s home region.

If there is truth to the suggestion that Tsipi Livni was offered the position as Deputy Secretary General of the UN in order to secure agreement for the Fayyad appointment as envoy to Libya, then perhaps we are truly entering a new era. Perhaps Guterres, like Anwar Sadat and now Fahad Almasri, took note of how when we Israelis are backed up against the wall our claws come out and we fight back because our very lives depend on it, but when we are offered a reasonable starting point for negotiations, we willingly sit at the table and discuss difficult compromises.

On the other hand, it is conceivable that Guterres wanted to offer Livni the job in any case, and the Fayyad veto provided him with the ammunition he needed to manipulate the Security Council into approving her appointment. Guterres-Trump-Netanyahu conspiracy anyone? [On the other hand: Elder of Zion suggested that this was an artful deal on Trump’s part.]

This article originally appeared on Israel Diaries.


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