MADAM TZIPI LIVNI AT THE RUSSIAN TEA ROOM: AN ACCOUNT OF THE PROCEEDINGS
"Golda Meir....was an original. Her childhood in the Russia of pogroms and her youth as a pioneer in the harshness of Palestine had taught her that only the wary are given the opportunity to survive and only those who fight succeed in that effort....She was a founder of her country. Every inch of land for which Israel had fought was to her a token of her people's survival; it would be stubbornly defended against enemies; it would given up only for a tangible guarantee of security. She had a penetrating mind, leavened by earthiness and a mischievous sense of humor. She was not taken in by rhetoric, or particularly interested in the finer points of negotiating tactics. She cut to the heart of the matter. She answered pomposity with irony and dominated conversations by her personality and shrewd psychology. To me me acted as a benevolent aunt towards an especially favored nephew, so that even to admit the possibility of disagreement was a challenge to family hierarchy producing emotional outrage."
Henry Alfred Kissinger, White House Year, 1979, p. 370.
The leading Israeli Opposition leader, Mme. Livni, spoke before the assembled and select audience of the Oxonian Society, at the famed (if admittedly poshlost) Russian Tea Room, here in Manhattan on the 1st of July. Among her other remarks, Mme. Livni mentioned that: i) she was skeptical, as then Minister of Justice, about then elections in Gaza back in 2007, but that it was mainly American insistence which brought them about. With the result that the radical Hamas grouping won said elections and soon enough took over the entire Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority (hereafter PA); ii) she stated that she would never enter into coalition with the ruling Likuid (her original political home), as the latter is too unwilling to compromise on the issue of the West Bank. And, that at present what was needed was a "complete change in government policy vis-`a-vis the Palestinians"; iii) she condemned out of hand, Human Rights activists who endeavored to obtain her arrest recently in both Brussels and in London. And, that she would not be stopped from proceeding with future visits to both capitals in the future; iv) `a la her predecessor as foreign minister (and perhaps Premier?) she stated that while she would prefer to have the support of the 'international community', she would rather forgo the same if such was at 'the price of Israeli security'; v) apropos the Israel's relations with Ankara, she recalls that as Foreign Minister back in 2006-2008, she told Turkish Premier Erdogan that he should refrain from legitimizing Hamas, by his actions and statements. She blames Ankara's recent, anti-Israeli foreign policy statements on the European Union's failure to admit Turkey as a member. And, that the AK government needs to be spoken to by the West in a firm manner concerning its policies; vi) concerning what would or should occur if Persia's attempts to acquire Nuclear Weapons were not stopped by the sanctions regime, recently strengthened by the United Nation's Security Council, Livni did not care to elaborate a response; vii) concerning future negotiations with the PA, Livni says that the PA leaders need to be realistic and not become obsessed with issues of amour propre. And, that overall she is both 'realistic' and 'optimistic' about the success of any such talks in the future; viii) apropos the issue of Israel's international standing and its perceived decline, Livni offered up the idea that this state of affairs could only be changed by a change in Israeli policy on the issue of the Palestinians; ix) Livni concluded her talk by stating that: a) Persia was a negative influence on the possibilities of peace; b) that time works against the possibility of peace; c) and, that Israel would not negotiate with Hamas as peace partner. With that she concluded her talk and was enthusiastically acclaimed by her audience.
What does one make of the above? And, of this potential future Israeli Premier? In terms of her personal qualities, Mme. Livni is an intelligent, well-spoken and lively political personality. Without necessarily having the same home-spun, babushka qualities that the late Golda Meir, Livni was able to draw on the audience's sympathies by bringing up her own family's story in the context of current Israeli policies. In terms of her political positioning, it appears that she is presenting herself and her party (Kadima) as the friendlier, more diplomatically acceptable in terms of International opinion, alternative to the current Likuid government. Her comments while positioning her to the 'left' of Netanyahu and company, hardly present her as a radical alternative to the current government. Given her own past, and in particular her support for both the Lebanon War and the Gaza War, this is hardly very surprising. Overall, one is lead to conclude that this able and attractive personality, if she does indeed gain the premiership in the future, will steer the Israeli ship of state in waters which are rather well known to both friend and foe alike.