Our World: Tzipi Livni and us
Caroline B. Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 3, 2006
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is an interesting case study in how a public
image can trump professional competence in Israeli politics.
Livni was brought into politics by then prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in
1999. The back-bencher became prominent in 2003 after undergoing two major
transformations. First, she exchanged her frizzy light brown curls and dowdy
dresses for straight blond hair and couture. Next she followed former
premier Ariel Sharon from the nationalist camp to the post-Zionist camp.
In the aftermath of these stunning changes, the leftist media crowned this
woman with pidgin English and no understanding of international diplomacy
the queen of Israeli politics. While bereft of actual accomplishments, with
the media's bottomless indulgence, Livni enjoys a reputation as a savvy,
competent, and scrupulously clean politician.
All this no doubt explains a poll published Sunday by Ma'ariv which claims
that if Livni were to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as head of Kadima,
she could lead the embattled candidates' list to victory in the next general
One of Livni's chief advantages over Olmert is that she is less identified
than her boss with Israel's defeat in Lebanon. There are two main reasons
that this is the case. First, unlike Olmert and Defense Minister Amir
Peretz, Livni maintained a low profile throughout the war. Second, Livni was
kept out of the loop of the war's military management.
More than anything else, Ma'ariv's poll exposes the public's ignorance of
Livni's positions on issues of national concern. This is so because in
repeated polls since the war came to its sudden cessation, the public has
expressed views diametrically opposed to those that Livni seeks to advance.
On Friday, Livni clarified her positions in an interview with Yediot
Aharonot. Her views were also given expression in an article in Haaretz on
Sunday regarding the government's diplomatic handling of the war. During the
war, the principal difference between Livni and Olmert was that Livni gave
up on the idea of Israel winning the war on July 12 - that is, on the day
that Hizbullah attacked an IDF patrol along the northern border, kidnapped
IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser and began pummeling northern
Israel with rockets and missiles. It took Olmert another 10 days to be
convinced that Israel ought to lose the war.
Both in her interview with Yediot and in her statements to Haaretz, Livni
makes clear that unlike the public, she doesn't see why the war in Lebanon
proves that the policy of surrendering land to terrorists is misguided.
Ignoring the fact that Israel's withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza enabled
the empowerment of jihadist terror groups and paved the way for the war that
ensued, Livni sees the terror wars as an opportunity to bring foreign troops
into Lebanon. Indeed, on the first day of the war, Livni instructed her
advisers to begin drawing up plans for foreign forces to come to Lebanon to
protect Israel. Although UNIFIL commanders have made clear that they will
not disarm Hizbullah, enforce an arms embargo, or remove Hizbullah forces
from the border, Livni views the UNIFIL deployment in Lebanon as a model for
both Gaza and Judea and Samaria.
Livni's aversion - already on the first day of the war - to any attempt on
Israel's part to secure a military victory in Lebanon on the one hand, and
her enthusiastic advocacy of the international force model in Lebanon and in
Gaza and Judea and Samaria on the other stems from her basic misconception
of both Israel's regional security environment and its international
This conception makes her behave more as the EU and UN's ambassador to
Israel rather than as Israel's chief diplomat.
As she put it to Yediot, Israel has to stop seeing the US as its only ally,
and reach out to the UN, the Europeans, the Sunni Arab states in the
region - Jordan, Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian Authority, the
Persian Gulf emirates and Saudi Arabia - and to the Saniora government in
Lebanon. Livni believes that all these players will cooperate with Israel
because they share some of Israel's interests.
While it is true that these international players share interests with
Israel, Livni ignores the fact that they have other interests diametrically
opposed to Israel's national interests. Those divergent interests have
always trumped the shared interests and nothing that Israel has done in the
past or could do in the future will change this basic calculus.
Livni began her interview with Yediot by attacking the religious Zionist
public. "In the Israeli political system there are no real gaps concerning
the [vision of a] comprehensive settlement of the conflict with the
Palestinians," she said. "The dispute is between the religious public and
the rest of the Israelis."
She argues her case by asserting that aside from the religious Zionists, all
Israelis agree that we have to expel the Israelis who live in communities in
Judea and Samaria and transfer their land and communities to the
Palestinians. Livni's assertion is extraordinary given that in a recent
Maagar Mohot poll, 73 percent of Israeli Jews stated that they object to
territorial withdrawals from Judea and Samaria.
Livni continued her analysis arguing that Israel must immediately move to
destroy the so-called outpost communities in Judea and Samaria. She
justified this view by claiming that these communities were built without
government permission and that anyway, Israel intends to give the
Palestinians the lands the communities are located on. There are three basic
flaws in her reasoning.
First, her claim that the communities must be destroyed because they were
built without government approval is ridiculous on its face.
The government decided in 2005 that it wanted to destroy them. Tomorrow it
could just as easily decide that it wants to expand them. What Livni is
effectively saying is, "I don't like them and therefore I want to destroy
Second, assuming that she is right that Israel would want to give the lands
on which those communities have been built to the Palestinians in the
framework of a peace agreement, it is far from clear what Israeli interest
would be served by conceding them today, when the Palestinians are governed
by their popularly elected jihadist government. Why would Israel want to
give up its bargaining chips before it has a Palestinian government willing
to accept its existence?
Finally, while Livni mindlessly insists that "everyone knows" the contours
of the peace settlement, Israel's experience since the onset of the peace
process with the PLO in 1993 has proven incontrovertibly that those contours
The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected the vision of two states west of
the Jordan River and have repeatedly made clear through their actions and
words that they are not interested in having a Palestinian state in Judea,
Samaria, Gaza, and portions of Jerusalem. As they have clarified repeatedly,
they want to destroy the Jewish state. So claiming that the solution is
known is to simply deny reality.
Livni forcefully argued that Israel cannot rest on its laurels but must move
forward immediately to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. In this
vein she supports a massive release of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli
jails. In her words, "The world doesn't suffer a vacuum in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When we don't initiate solutions, the world
comes with its own solutions."
What she fails to recognize is that the world did not rest on its laurels
after Israel made massive concessions on its own initiative to the
Palestinians in the past. Rather each Israeli concession was seen as but a
starting point for further concessions. Indeed the statement makes one
wonder where she has been for the past 13 years.
Livni's argumentation stems from her central misconception that Israel's
national security is secured not by the IDF but by opinion polls in Paris
and Brussels. She fails to understand not only that this is false, but that
Israel's popularity ratings in Europe have little to nothing to do with
Israel's actual policies or actions.
Finally, Livni told Yediot that her great plan now is to get the Arab states
to work with Israel on solving the Palestinian refugee
problem. Now that Israel supports Palestinian statehood, she said, the Arabs
will want to help solve the problem by settling the refugees in the
Palestinian state and by normalizing the status of the Palestinians who have
been living in refugee camps in the Arab world since 1948.
Here too, Livni fails to understand reality. The Palestinian refugee problem
is not a problem that the Arab world wishes to solve. The Arab world
invented the problem because the Arab League wishes to destroy Israel. The
refugee problem does not stand on its own. It is a consequence of the Arab
world's continued refusal to accept Israel's right to exist. Were this not
the case, the refugees would have been resettled 50 years ago.
There is a question of how long the leftist media will be able to maintain
Livni's image as a responsible, competent leader.
They managed to prolong a similar fiction of Olmert as a national leader
until he led us to disaster in Lebanon this summer. We must hope that Livni
is exposed as an incompetent, opportunistic phony before she can do us
similar, if not greater damage in the future.