The Lamentable Livni

By: David M. Weinberg

Sep 16, 2011

You would think that at a time of extreme national security unrest, the leader of the official opposition in Israel would back up the prime minister and the defense establishment. But not Tzipi Livni.

This week Livni chose to blame Netanyahu for the tensions with Turkey, for the deterioration in relations with Egypt, for the conflict with the Palestinians, and for the upcoming confrontation at the United Nations. “The most right-wing government in Israel’s history has led it to the worst possible diplomatic situation,” Livni said. “Netanyahu talks tough but has weakened Israel to the point that it cannot act when missiles are falling on its residents.”

Livni is pathetic. While it is her job as opposition leader to critique Netanyahu, Livni ought to exercise some restraint given the flammable moment Israel now faces, and given the fact that she offers no credible policy alternatives.

The vast majority of Mideast experts and our military and diplomatic brass – and the overwhelming majority of Israelis – understand that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is the root problem in Ankara-Jerusalem relations. Erdogan is an Islamic emperor-on-the-make looking for a fight; he is building his power base and regional ambitions on the anti-Israel card. He has targeted relations with Israel for downgrading since taking power in 2003 – long before Netanyahu became prime minister of Israel, long before the war with Hamas that Livni supported as foreign minister, and long before the flotilla.

Everybody in Israel knows this, except Tzipi Livni. She knows better: Netanyahu is at fault.

The vast majority of Mideast experts and our military and diplomatic brass – and the overwhelming majority of Israelis – understand that Mahmoud Abbas and his coterie of obstructionist leaders are the root problem in Israeli-Palestinian relations. They are hell-bent on unilateral action to isolate and delegitimize Israel at the UN and other international forums. They have abandoned negotiations with Israel because the maximum that any sane Israeli can offer them (and did offer them under Livni’s auspices) is less than the minimum than they are willing to accept. They want every last inch, they want it “Judenrein,” and they are not willing to forgo the so-called right of return – which would destroy Israel.

Everybody in Israel knows this, except Tzipi Livni. She knows better: Netanyahu is at fault.

The vast majority of Mideast experts and our military and diplomatic brass – and the overwhelming majority of Israelis – understand that deep anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Islamic undercurrents are flowing freely in the streets of Cairo; that the Egyptian presidential candidates are fiercely anti-Israel because it is a winning card; and that the escalating security situation in the Sinai is a result of an Egyptian loss-of-control. The mobs who ransacked Israel’s embassy in Cairo would have just as happily done so if Livni had been prime minister.

Everybody in Israel knows this, except Tzipi Livni. She knows better: Netanyahu is at fault.

The vast majority of Mideast experts and our military and diplomatic brass – and the overwhelming majority of Israelis – understand that Barack Obama is the root problem in US-Israel relations. Obama has purposefully wedged “daylight” into Washington-Jerusalem ties (– this is Obama’s own term for distancing himself from Israel), in the context of a declared long-term strategy to improve US-Arab relations. This has inevitably come at Israel’s expense, and any Israeli prime minister would now be having a tough time with this American president. Obama has been extraordinarily silent as Erdogan, Abbas and Ahmadinejad beat up on Israel.

Everybody in Israel knows this, except Tzipi Livni. She knows better: Netanyahu is at fault. She even told The Atlantic in a recent interview that Obama pressure on Netanyahu was a good thing.

The Kadima chairwoman says a diplomatic process is needed in order for Israel to protect its interests, and that she would know how to do this – unlike Netanyahu. After all, “I have been there,” Livni says. Only that Livni forgets to mention that when she “was there,” the diplomatic process she conducted with Abbas and Ahmed Qureia ended in utter failure. After Livni and Olmert gave away the store, the Palestinians walked away because they wanted more.

The other brilliant diplomatic moves backed by Livni, like the Gaza disengagement, have turned out just swell, as well. So, of course, Livni knows better and would do better at diplomacy than Netanyahu. She would undoubtedly be a better economic leader for Israel in this time of social protests, right?

With much of the international community and Israeli press reflexively anti-Netanyahu, Livni can usually get away with throwing out empty slogans like this: “I would do better.” The serious questions Livni has to answer – and she probably can’t – is how would she do better and what better results could she possibly achieve.

Would she apologize to the Turks and end Israel’s blockade of arms on Gaza? Would this truly improve relations with Erdogan? Would she accept an UN-dictated negotiations framework that sets the 1967 lines as the border? How does she think her peace process would advance as she tears down settlements and simultaneously sends the IDF into Gaza on a major operation – two things she has recently advocated? Would she cut the defense budget or abandon the two-year budget limitations set by the government?

What rankles most about Livni’s behavior is her irresponsible undermining of the government at this dangerous time. Imagine if Menachem Begin had blamed Levi Eshkol for the Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran, which led to the Six Day War. Begin, instead, offered to join a national unity government. With the Americans, Europeans, Turks, Egyptians, Palestinians and Iranians closing in on Israel from all sides, you would think that Livni might consider doing the same. But no, she knows better. Netanyahu is at fault.

Originally published on September 16, 2011 in Israel Hayom newspaper.

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About David Weinberg

David M. Weinberg is a spokesman, speechwriter, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »


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