A number of people have commented to me that the Haaretz article about Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, that I blogged about here, never made it into English translation. The full piece by Gidi Weitz and Na’ama Lanski did obviously appear in Haaretz in Hebrew. It is a good piece, full of insights regarding Livni, although the teaser regarding Iran was the most interesting headline from the article. Weitz and Lanski discussed Livni’s popularity – she adds about 5 Knesset seats to her Kadima party according to polls – but contrast it to the absence of her having built any serious organizational or field support structure within Kadima. That will seriously affect her prospects of winning any future Kadima leadership contests.
On the Iran issue, here is the full quote from the article:
A few months ago in a series of closed meetings, Livni expressed a unique position: she claimed that the Iranian bomb would not threaten Israel’s existence. Even if a bomb would fall in the center of Israel, she said in these meetings with intentional exaggeration, it would cause significant damage, but we are not talking about a threat to our existence. Livni’s assessment is that wiping out the state of Israel is a project that the Iranians are just not up to. These important things she will not say in public.The article goes on to explain that Livni generally avoids taking clear cut positions or choosing sides. They describe a Minister, almost paralyzed by fear of failure. In addition, they quote an anonymous source, who met with Livni, together with Palestinians as saying
As far as [the Palestinians] were concerned, similar to other foreign parties that she meets, Livni is the perfect first date. In the first meeting she is impressive and expresses her positions with clarity. In the second meeting, when you get the same repertoire, the magic has dissipated.But there is one additional and important insight and that is regarding Livni’s role during last summer’s Lebanon war. This Haaretz article building on testimony, given by Livni to the Winograd Committee and other interviews provides yet further evidence that there was a missed opportunity to a pursue a diplomatic option in the very first days of the war. In fact, Livni suggested this route almost from day one and she, along with others, expected the military conflict to be brief and that US led diplomacy would replace it. Some of the outlines of what became UN Security Council Resolution 1701were first explored in Livni’s office. That was the work of Livni’s advisor, Tal Becker, who appears in this Haaretz article, both as the brain behind 1701 and the person preparing important policy documents on the Israeli Palestinian issue. Tal is one of an unfortunately short list of advisors to the current government, who has made a name for himself and earned well-deserved respect as an extremely sharp, constructive and creative thinker. I don’t agree with Tal on all things and it probably wouldn’t help his career for me to be too praise worthy, but he is definitely someone to look out for.
Back to Livni and the Lebanon war: Weitz and Lanski draw the following conclusions,
If Livni understood better than the Generals the folly of the war, it is very possible that if she had pressed harder to reach a diplomatic agreement, built a coalition on this issue inside the government and sparked a heated public debate, she would have finished the war rather differently.All that needs to be added is where was the Bush administration when diplomacy was so badly needed in the region? – oh yes, Ambassador John Bolton was preventing UN intervention for 30 days and encouraging escalation. Aye.
McCain and Rabin
The Washington correspondent of Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper and website, nrg.co.il, Tal Schneider picked up on the ProspectforPeace exposé of paid McCain campaign ads on a weird Kahanist website that promotes the idea that Shimon Peres was behind Rabin’s assassination. Schneider asked the McCain campaign for their response, which in her words were “very unsatisfying.” They claimed that they were not responsible for the content of sites on which they advertise. No apology was forthcoming. It seems however that the ads have at least been removed.
When my Iran Haaretz op-ed appeared in Hebrew, I was pleasantly surprised at a) how little abuse there was on the talk backs and b) how many calls and notes of support I received from former colleagues and other people I respect. Maybe there is more room for a debate inside Israel than is commonly assumed.
As for the debate here in the US, it is well worth watching this spirited rebuttal by Farid Zakaria of Norman Podhoretz speaking from his 1930s time machine on Jim Lehrer’s Newshour. Watch it or read the transcript here. Zakaria makes a sober and compelling case against the military option and walks us back from the hysteria that is so prevalent.
Finally, not to be missed, is this post on my colleague, Steve Clemons’ blog, the Washington Note, revealing a previously unreleased letter from Senator Chuck Hagel to President Bush about America’s Iran policy. In the letter, Hagel urges Bush to “pursue direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with Iran.” Read the full post here.