Jewish Routes to Jewish Roots
MAY 31, 2009 - 14 days
party candidates at the federa-
tions' yearly gathering provided
some glimpses of how each
would approach Israel's prob-
lems, showcased the differences
in their personal styles and
offered some signs of the recep-
The Federatio.is of
tion each could expect from
North Amer ca
In a 40-minute address that
ran more than twice the length
of those of his rivals, the front-
runner in the race, Netanyahu, cast
Israel as a Jewish state because this is
himself as Israel's economic savior
the raison d'etre of the State of Israel:"
returned. He heralded his successes as
But, she emphasized, "It's not a
Israel's finance minister from 2003 to
matter of religion. It is more a matter
2005 and championed an economy-
of nationality. A Jewish state is not a
based approach to mitigating the
monopoly of rabbis. It's what we are;
it's what each and every one of us feels
On the Israeli-Palestinian front,
Netanyahu favors pursuing achievable
She said countries around the
incremental agreements rather than
world must do more to confront anti-
chasing what he sees as an elusive
Semitism, support Israel's right to
final-status deal. He wants to focus
exist as a Jewish state and confront
on bolstering the "moderate parts of
Iran. She also called upon the inter-
the Palestinian economy" to foster the
national community to boycott the
conditions for political agreement.
so-called Durban II conference. The
The Likud leader did not, however,
U.N. gathering, scheduled to take place
outline what a political agreement
in April in Geneva, follows up on the
with the Palestinians would look like,
2001 U.N. conference against racism
nor did he mention pursuing the goal
in Durban, South Africa, which turned
of a Palestinian state.
out to be an Israel-bashing, anti-
Netanyahu, who served as Israel's
prime minister from June 1996 to July
She said Israel will not participate in
1999, tried to link himself to America's and will not legitimize the conference.
president-elect, citing his meetings
If Netanyahu cut the figure of an
with Obama several times and casting American-style candidate, and Livni
himself as Israel's candidate of change the advocate and foreign minister,
in what amounted to an American-
Barak, a former Israel Defense Forces
style stump speech.
chief of staff, sounded like an army
Where Netanyahu's presentation was general. He focused exclusively on
polished and confident, his English
Israel's security challenges, singling
articulate and his policy proposals
out Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
clear — ranging from lowering taxes
He said the Israeli army has learned
to fighting organized crime — Livni's
the lessons of its failures in the 2006
pitch was more emotional, short on
war with Hezbollah, the IDF is ready
detail and a bit more tongue-tied.
to respond to Hamas attacks from the
Nevertheless, Livni, Israel's foreign
Gaza Strip and time is running out for
minister and Ehud Olmert's successor
effective sanctions against Iran.
as Kadima Party leader, was met with
On the diplomatic front, Barak said
the same rousing applause that greet-
Israel will have to determine whether
ed Netanyahu, whose years as Israel's
Syria truly is interested in peace and
U.N. representative, foreign minister
whether preliminary talks can be
and prime minister have made him a
translated into concrete results.
more familiar figure to American Jews.
"We have a deep and profound
"This gathering is about tikkun
interest in finding a way to delay and
olam," Livni said, using the Hebrew
avoid wars:' said Barak, who was
term for repairing the world. "Tikkun
Israel's prime minister from July 1999
olam needs to start in doing some-
to March 2001.
thing for yourself, in understanding
Barak, who trails Netanyahu and
better who you are, before you are
Livni in the polls and whose Labor
doing for the others.
Party is expected to suffer heavy losses
"We need not to forget the ultimate
in February's elections, did not get the
goal of the State of Israel," she said.
same warm reception that Netanyahu
"We need to keep the nature of the State and Livni received. LI
of Israel, the character of the State of
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