Cablegate: The Livni Campaign Mantra: Clean Government

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1. (SBU) Summary: FM Tzipi Livni launched her public campaign for
the leadership of the Kadima Party in June - well before the Kadima
Council formally decided in July to hold primaries in September.
Livni's consistent campaign message to the Kadima electorate has
been a call for a clean slate of leaders to restore public faith in
government. Her mantra and its implied criticism of the prime
minister have irritated Olmert, whose standing continues to slip in
the polls (despite his efforts to discredit his accusers). Livni's
attempt to portray her style of politics as more capable and clean
has also resulted in closer scrutiny of her own actions, and
reporters scrutinized her decision to fly home alone from Paris on a
taxpayer-funded business-class ticket rather than share a seat on
Olmert's airplane. The tight Kadima primary race with Minister of
Transportation Shaul Mofaz, who also claims to be clean, may force
Livni to take political considerations into account while she
continues her negotiations with the Palestinians. Livni reportedly
told Kadima audiences that she is against prematurely codifying the
results of her negotiations for fear of revealing concessions that
might weaken her in the race against Mofaz. End Summary.


2. (U) Just over a year ago, in the wake of the Winograd
Commission's Interim Report on the conduct of the Second Lebanon
War, FM Livni issued a very public call for PM Olmert's resignation.
When Olmert ignored Livni's call and remained in office, she drew
much criticism for what came to be known as her "U-turn-decision" to
remain in Olmert's government. Since that May 2007 news conference,
Livni has exercised caution, never mentioning Olmert by name in any
of her repeated attacks on the quality or style of his leadership
while intensifying her advocacy of a change at the helm of both
party and nation.


3. (SBU) A year after her May 2007 miscalculation, at a conference
on homeland security in Jerusalem, Livni unveiled her current
political strategy: Shift the focus away from the Prime Minister and
the imbroglios in which he is involved and place it on the needs of
the party and the people. Speaking shortly after Defense Minister
Barak's call for Kadima leadership primaries, Livni seized the
occasion to declare: "It is not possible to ignore the events of the
last few days. This is not just a matter of whether it is a legal or
criminal issue, nor is it only a personal affair concerning the
Prime Minister. It concerns questions of values and of the norms we
wish to instill and their effect on public trust in politics in


4. (U) In June, FM Livni began to address a much broader electorate
than the limited Kadima membership which will have the right to vote
for party leader. "When the public gives its mandate," Livni told a
Conference for Quality of Government, "it wants to know that it can
trust its chosen leaders and not that those in power are weighing
their own future rather than the future of the citizens of Israel."
She added that: "A society that considers anything that is not
criminal to be tolerable is a society without norms and values. I
can't believe that Israeli society is an immoral society. The norms
are a tool in the hands of the public, whose chosen leaders are
supposed to pay a price or be rewarded." Livni's chief rival,
Minister of Transportation Shaul Mofaz, also claims to be as clean
as Livni, and recently quipped to a Ma'ariv reporter: "And what I
am, crooked?"


5. (U) Livni's themes include honesty, reliability and dedication
to a higher cause than self-interest. She unveiled her most direct
formulation of this theme at a Tel Aviv University conference on
June 22 on "Israel: State of the Nation," in which she reviewed
sixty years of Israel's relations with the international community
before turning to politics: "If you grab the first person you see
passing on the street and ask them how they would describe the state
of the nation in one word -- they will say "bad" -- and in two words
"very bad". If the collective sense is one of public loss of faith
in its elected officials, and a feeling that systems are breaking
down and that there is no one who may be relied upon, then the road
from here to anarchy in which everyone does what they consider to be
right... is very short."

6. (U) Livni's campaign mantra broadened, in this forum, from the
theme of ethics in public life to larger issues of national purpose

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and commitment: "The first thing a politician must do when elected,
is to return the faith to the public... get to know his office...
and try and create reforms if change is needed." Livni diagnosed a
root cause of the Israeli "malaise": the incessant distraction
caused by the "Internet era" in which "Headlines change from second
to second...and the message changes every minute." "We need" she
said "to restore the common denominator -- that writing on the wall
-- and that requires political and diplomatic decisions by the
leadership, which almost always involves a choice in which the
short-term and long-term cost and goal are in conflict with one


7. (U) Livni's public appearances have not been limited to devotees
of government reform and clean government, though she has turned up
the volume on her refrain. At a July conference on democracy at the
President's residence, she reportedly stated that "from the criminal
aspect, a person who breaks the law pays with his freedom; from the
normative aspect, this man must pay with his office," according to
the Jerusalem Post. She has rolled up her sleeves and begun to
actively recruit Kadima Party members around the country, in an
effort stay ahead of Mofaz and the other Kadima candidates. She has
relied heavily on her deputy minister of foreign affairs, Majalli
Whbee, to recruit Druze voters to the party, and used the occasion
of a farewell event at Whbee's home in Beit Jann in honor of
Ambassador Jones to emphasize her long history of cooperation and
support for the Druze community in Israel.

8. (SBU) Comment: Livni's role in negotiations with the
Palestinians since Annapolis has mostly been out of the public eye.
Should Olmert press for a more public debate about these
negotiations, it could put Livni at a disadvantage vis-a-vis her
chief rival, Mofaz. A recent Jerusalem Post article noted that
Kadima officials speculate that Livni has been adamant about not
drafting any agreement with the Palestinians (before Kadima
primaries in September) for fear that the concessions in such a
document might cost her critical political support.

© Scoop Media

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