She may be politically clean, but is she still wet behind the ears?
Jewish telegraphic Agency
sraeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
smooths her tailored black jacket,
tosses back her head and takes in the
King David Hotel hall packed with foreign
The woman who would be prime minis-
ter can draw quite a crowd.
Polls show that Livni, 50, is the leading
contender to win Kadima Party primaries
Sept. 17 to succeed Ehud Olmert.
Like her main party rival,
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz,
Livni has been on Israel's national stage
for about a decade. Since her election
to the Knesset on the Likud list in 1999,
Livni has enjoyed what often is referred
to in Israel as a "meteoric" rise under the
tutelage of mentor Ariel Sharon.
With her reputation for straight talk,
intelligence and political moderation,
Livni has managed to capture something
of the popular imagination in an Israel
weary of corruption and grandstanding
among its politicians.
But Mrs. Clean, as she is sometimes
called, lacks the military credentials of
her main rivals — among them Likud
leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense
Minister Ehud Barak — should Kadima's
new leader fail to assemble a coalition
government and general elections soon
Livni's rivals have pointed to her relative
dearth of leadership experience to cast her
as insufficiently prepared for the job of
prime minister. Barak even borrowed from
a theme in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad,
asking who Israelis would want to answer
the phone at 3 a.m.
The foreign minister has been firing
"Security is not only a question of
whether or not there is specific kind of
military operation;' Livni said last month
at the King David Hotel news conference.
"The prime minister needs to put on
the table what is the goal of Israel as a
state and means to achieve this goal, and
whether the means are through military
force or diplomatic options!"
Livni, a former lawyer who started her
professional career as a Mossad agent, also
September 18 . 2008
spoke of her experience in Israel's three-
person security Cabinet with Barak and
Her tenure in that group has not been
free of criticism, however. During the
2006 Lebanon war, Livni lobbied for a
diplomatic solution and openly criticized
Olmert's management of the crisis.
While her criticism reflected wide-
spread public sentiment during and after
the war, Livni was skewered in the media
for staying in the government despite
calling on the prime minister to resign in
May 2007. The call followed a state inquiry
investigating the war that found fault with
Olmert's management of the conflict.
At the time, Israeli commentator Ben
Caspit wrote in Israel's daily Ma'ariv that
Livni was better suited to be the leader of
a women's organization like Na'amat, the
women's arm of the Labor Party, than the
But among those who have worked
alongside Livni in various political
offices — she has served as the minister
of regional cooperation, of immigrant
absorption, of justice and of housing and
infrastructure — there is abiding respect
for her capabilities and intellect.
"Being steady is about knowing how
to make difficult decisions, not just on
impulse and emotion;' said Mirla Gal,
who grew up with Livni in Tel Aviv and
worked alongside her at the Ministry of
Immigrant Absorption as director general.
"She is not all about politics and games;'
said Ari Shavit, a columnist for Ha'aretz.
Shai Ben-Mor, who worked as Livni's
communications director, said Livni often
"fled from the headlines" where other
politicians would seek coverage.
As an example, he cites the time that
Livni visited Jewish settlements in the
Gaza Strip shortly before Israel evacuated
them in 2005. She wanted to meet the
local residents and explain to them that
she felt their pain but was standing behind
the government policy to evacuate Gaza,
"She had the courage to go there, to
a place where she is deeply unpopular,
and to look at the eyes and not to hide
in her bureau in Jerusalem," Ben-Mor
Her support for the Gaza withdrawal
reflected how much Livni, who was
raised by fiercely ideological parents,
represented a shift from her political
Her father, Eitan, was a commander
of the prestate Irgun militia and later
a Likud Knesset member. Her mother,
Sara, also was a well-known Irgun fight-
er who inspired one of the militia's fight
songs, "Up to the Barricades!'
Livni herself once opposed any notion
of trading land for peace. But not unlike
other prominent sons and daughters
of the founding Likud elite, including
Olmert, Livni changed her position to
support the idea of territorial compro-
As foreign minister, Livni has led
Israel's talks with the Palestinians,
which have been conducted largely out
of public view.
Whether or not those talks achieve
diplomatic fruit will depend in large
part on how Livni fares in Kadima's
primary and whether the winner of that
vote can assemble a coalition govern-
ment and stave off new general elec-
In a speech this month at Yale
University, Professor John Mearsheimer
said that a small group of U.S. Jews
exerts disproportionate control over
the American government and its for-
eign policy. Using power and money,
he argued, it steers the nation toward
the disasters of our time — wars and
a crumbling economy — disregarding
the better interests of the U.S. and the
world at large.
Ignoring Israel's democracy, its coexis-
tence between minorities and the free
will of the American public — which
overwhelmingly supports Israel's posi-
tion — Mearsheimer is the current
leader of anti-Israel rhetoric on our
— Allan Gale,
Jewish Community Relations Council
of Metropolitan Detroit
@ Jewish Renaissance Media, Sept 18, 2008