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Monday, June 02, 2008

Foreign media backing Livni

On Saturday night, I pointed to an article in Sunday's Times of London and commented "Well now we know whom Uzi Mahnaimi is backing to be the next Prime Minister of Israel." The Times' verifiably leftist Israel correspondent is not the only member of the foreign media who is backing Livni. Israel Insider reports that the normally hostile al-Guardian also had a positive piece on Livni in Sunday's editions (Hat Tip: Avi Green via Memeorandum).
The Guardian, usually no friend of Israel, puts out a glowing profile that starts with the report of a Western diplomat, tense and tired, getting a message from Livni upon arrival: "'Don't bother coming to my office,' she said. 'I feel so cooped up here!' Instead, she gave him directions to a seaside restaurant at the southern edge of the city, where he found her savouring plates of hummus, techina and eggplant salad. 'That,' recalled the diplomat, 'was vintage Tzipi. She is many things - serious, incredibly smart, tough, determined ... but she is no ordinary politician.'"

The Guardian piece is more circumspect about Livni's past, especially the shadowy Mossad years. "During her school days, while both bright and athletic, as a 'child of the Irgun', she was inevitably an outsider. Livni none the less excelled during her obligatory army service. She went on to work in Israel and then in Paris for the intelligence agency Mossad, work she has always resolutely refused to discuss, before taking a law degree and carving out a successful, decade-long career as a corporate attorney."

It quotes a Western diplomat who "laughs at media portraits of her as a 'dove'. 'She is no softie,' he says. 'On key issues for Israelis - security and opposition to an unfettered "right of return" for Palestinians into homes lost in 1948 or 1967 - she is as tough as anyone.'"

"But he adds: 'She genuinely feels a two-state agreement is necessary. Her attitude when there is an objection the Palestinians are pressing is always to go the extra mile, to try to find some creative formula for a solution, as long as it doesn't endanger what she sees as the core needs of Israel.'"
That's a lot of nonsense. As I have shown on numerous occasions, although she may not have been one 25 years ago, Livni is very much a dove today.

Israel Insider hints at the real motivation for both the Times and the Guardian:
All the attention is explicable by the top story that graced Israel's top daily Yediot Aharonot in the Friday papers: an opinion poll of a sampling of Kadima party members put Livni as the clear frontrunner if Olmert does go, with 39 per cent support, against 25 per cent for her nearest rival, Shaul Mofaz. It also shows Kadima led by her doing much better against what Israeli polls -- unlike the Times of London -- all put as the real frontrunner to be the next Prime Minister of Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu of the opposition Likud party, Livni's political and family home.
This raises a point that has become a serious issue in Israeli politics: the interference of foreigners in our elections. Beginning with George Bush senior's blatant backing of Yitzchak Rabin against Yitzchak Shamir in 1992, our allies, especially the United States, have felt free to interfere in our elections in a manner that does not happen in any other country in the world. In 1996, Binyamin Netanyahu - who grew up in the United States and who was widely regarded as having very little chance of winning an election against Shimon Peres six months after Yitzchak Rabin's assassination - hired Arthur Finkelstein to work for him and won. Three years later, Bill Clinton dispatched James Carville to help Ehud Barak defeat Netanyahu. And so it has continued. Is it right?

Imagine if George Bush were now running for re-election and Ehud Olmert endorsed him or sent him strategists to help him plan his campaign. My guess is that a lot of Americans would be awfully (and justifiably) ticked off. So why do other countries feel free to try to influence our elections? Because we are probably the only country in the world that acts based upon what the world thinks of it. There's a lesson there.


At 5:24 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:26 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

As long as Israel's leaders place more emphasis on courting world opinion more than they do taking care of Israel's national interests, Israel will continue to put up with mediocrities like Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. There's not much to be said for a political system that promotes people who are more pre-occupied with their self-image than with doing their best for their country. And Israel's political class full of egotism, seldom tries to do what is good when it could do it at the least possible cost and to Israel's long-term benefit. Under Livni, Israel is likely to get more of Olmert, without the corruption. That's bad in view of the threats Israel has to face today.


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