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Can Livni clean up Israeli politics?

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But as for donning the mantle of the politics of change, many here warn against expectations of sweeping progress on any of the main issues in the immediate future.

Besides the complications existent in both the Israeli and Palestinian political scenes – as well as the tendency of both sides to want to wait and see who will be the next US president before moving ahead on any agreement – Livni is not the equivalent of someone coming from "outside the Beltway" to change the face of politics.

"Livni is not exactly our Obama," says Aluf Benn, a columnist and diplomatic editor of Haaretz, Israel's leading intellectual daily. "She's been [Ehud] Olmert's No. 2 for two years, and she spent five years in [Ariel] Sharon's government. She's not exactly coming from nowhere. She's been in the system; she was born into it," he says, referring to Livni's lineage.

Her parents were members of the Irgun, a hard-line Zionist militia, which in Israel is something akin to having come over with the Mayflower or having fought in the American Revolution.

"She campaigned on change – from Olmert," Mr. Benn says. "But to say, 'she's our Obama,' that she represents real change, is overblown." When it comes to the feasibility of peacemaking, he notes, the same internal divisions among the two peoples remain largely unchanged.

"We have the same limitations on our side," Benn adds. "The fundamental problems on the Palestinian side are also the same, with Hamas in charge of Gaza and Fatah barely holding onto security in the West Bank."

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