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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Livni's letter to J Street

Last Friday, I reported that opposition leader Tzipi Livni had sent a letter to J Street congratulating them on their first convention. Steve Clemons (presumably the same Steve Clemons who interviewed Khaled Meshaal this week) posted a pdf of the letter to Huffington Post, where he called it "a remarkable letter of affirmation to J Street, recognizing potential differences but affirming a shared strategic vision for the best interests of Israel."

Shmuel Rosner says that Clemons missed the point of Livni's letter.
1. Livni did not want to participate in the conference, and did not want to appear via video connection. The letter is a way of saying: I'm not boycotting the group, but I'm also quite far from supporting it.

2. The letter was crafted "carefully". And it does not say that Livni wishes the group "much success", it says (as Clemons, first to post the letter, could have seen) "I wish the the organizers and the participants much success in the upcoming conference". You might think that Livni's people are parsing hair with this fine-tuned message, but when the letter was crafted they deliberately chose to wish success for the "conference" not the "work" as Clemons claims.


7. All this doesn't mean that Livni's letter has no significance. It does. If Livni was Foreign Minister today, she would have asked Ambassador Michael Oren to attend the conference. She doesn't think Israel should boycott J Street, because she doesn't believe Israel should take sides in a debate that is a political Jewish American debate.

8. She also have hopes that by way of "engaging", she can have some impact on this group. There are signs that J Street - at least on the leadership level - had entered a period of some moderation (Jim Besser wrote: "There were also ripples of discontent at an unofficial Monday lunch for left-wing bloggers, who expressed both hope that J Street will become a potent force for peace and justice in the Middle East - and fear that it is already doing too much to moderate its positions to win favor with the pro-Israel establishment"). Livni seems to believe that communicating with the group creates the kind of relationships that will make it harder for J Street to disregard Israeli mainstream positions.
Rosner also makes several comments about Livni's relationship with AIPAC.

Livni is in a weak position because Prime Minister Netanyahu has totally silenced the opposition. She would love to be able to stake out a position with J Street, because it would show her to be a clear alternative to Netanyahu and the Likud. There are three problems with her doing that. First, she doesn't have the support within her own party to stake out positions that far to the left. Second, Labor, which is to her left (in theory), is in the government, and she's not willing or able to take positions to their left on significant issues - again because her own party will not allow it. Third and most important, the country has shifted so far to the right that J Street's position is far - really far - out of the mainstream. Livni cannot afford to put herself that far out of the mainstream.

I look at her letter as saying, "I support your right to your opinion, and I'd really love to support your opinion, but I can't right now."

Read the whole thing.


At 7:44 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Tzipi Livni is a political weasel. She's desperate for attention and every one is ignoring her and Kadima. What's an opposition leader to do?


At 9:55 AM, Blogger YMedad said...

So, the missive was truly authentic. There was some doubt raised.


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