Tzipi Hotovely

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You are Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel

Notable Quotes

"My position is that between the sea and the Jordan River, there needs to be one state only - the state of Israel, which has an Arab minority. There is no place for an agreement of any kind that discusses the concession of Israeli sovereignty over lands conquered in accordance with law and custom in the war of '67.”

“We need to return to the basic truth of our rights to this country. This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that.”

“We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognize Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.”

You are Tzipi Hotovely, a Member of Parliament with Israel’s Likud Party and, since May 2015, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Early Years

You were born in 1978 in Rehovot, Israel to parents who immigrated to Israel from Georgia, in what was then the Soviet Union. You were raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, and attended an ultra-Orthodox high school. As an Orthodox woman you were exempt from mandatory military service, choosing instead to do two years of national service. The latter portion of your national service work brought you to Atlanta, Georgia, where you worked for the Jewish Agency (an organization focused on assisting Jews who would like to move to Israel) and became an excellent speaker of English. Upon your return to Israel you attended law school, briefly working in corporate law. Your interest in politics grew, however, and soon you made a name for yourself, appearing on a political talk show and writing opinion pieces for one of Israel’s major newspapers, Ma’Ariv. You became known as a passionate and articulate “right-wing” voice, and you appeared on a number of television shows. Before long, you move from political punditry to actual politics, and you were elected to the Israeli parliament, or “Knesset,” with the Likud Party in 2009.

Political Life

As a member of the Knesset you continued to attract attention. You served as the Chair of a Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, and along with successfully shepherding through a law extending unpaid pregnancy leaves for workers, you drew attention for your strong opposition to intermarriage between Arabs and Jews. In keeping with this stance, you extended a controversial invitation to representatives of an organization called Lehava (The Organization for the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land) to testify before your committee. Lehava not only opposes intermarriage, it also opposes business or other relations between Jews and non-Jews—especially Arabs. It has staged hostile protests at Arab-Jewish marriages and its members were convicted of arson at an integrated Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem, all of which resulted in Lehava being designated by the Israeli government as a terrorist organization. You were unapologetic about this invitation, stating that you wanted to learn about all approaches to limiting intermarriage. You perhaps gained your greatest notoriety owing to your stated beliefs about Israel’s policies in the West Bank. Not only do you oppose a two-state solution, you believe that Israel should annex the West Bank. Your stance is based in your religious beliefs, and you hold that what others refer to as Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank is nothing more or less than the realization of the destiny of the Jewish people. Regarding the West Bank—lands that you refer to as Judea and Samaria in keeping with their biblical designation—you stated that “these are our lands as the Jewish people, these lands are our heritage lands, which is why I don't see us as occupiers. We did not want the '67 war, and in many ways it was forced on us.” Referring to Syria, Egypt and Jordan you stated that “in reality there are a lot of cases in which you lose lands in a war, and this is what happened.” You adamantly oppose a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, and it surely accurate to say that the core of your support is with the settler population.

Israel’s top full-time diplomat

In the weeks leading up to the 2015 elections, it was widely believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made a political error. He had fired two prominent members of his coalition government, most notably Chief Palestinian Peace Negotiator Tzipi Livni, thinking that he was in position to build a stronger coalition than he had, especially given what he saw as a very weak opposition. However, in the weeks running up to the election, he found himself in a close race. Livni had formed a coalition with the center-left Labor Party, and this “Zionist Union” was running neck and neck with Netanyahu’s forces. In the final days leading up to the election, then, Netanyahu shifted his focus and pitched his efforts strongly at the Israeli right-wing, announcing that no Palestinian state would come into existence on his watch, and fear-mongering about Israeli Arabs “turning out to vote in droves.” These efforts were credited with a last minute turn around in Netanyahu’s fortunes, turning the race into a comfortable victory for Likud, and turning you into a very important asset. Despite his comfortable victory, Netanyahu had a hard time forming a coalition, having so alienated his ally and longtime Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that Lieberman refused to have his “Israel Our Home” party—largely made up of Russian immigrants to Israel--stay in government. This created an opening in the foreign ministry that was tied to a perceived need to appeal both to Russian immigrants and the settler community. So, while Netanyahu kept the actual Foreign Minister position for himself, hoping perhaps to offer the post to Labor Party leader Issac Herzog to entice the Labor Party to join him and form a unity government, he turned to you to become Israel’s top full-time diplomat. Your ascension gives Netanyahu plenty of political benefits, and places you in a highly visible role at the young age of 36.

All is not sweetness and light in your corner of the world, though, and you have a couple of problems with which you must deal effectively in order to both retain your influence and protect your reputation. First, it is thought by many that appointing you to the Deputy Foreign Minister’s position is a way for Mr. Netanyahu to seem more reasonable to Israel’s Western allies. He can contrast his own positions with yours, and perhaps seem like more of a centrist by comparison. At the same time, he can solidify the domestic support of the right wing by having you in a highly visible position. He also appointed his old ally, Dore Gold, as Director-General of the Foreign Ministry, a move that could easily result in the limiting of your influence. Finally, so long as Netanyahu holds the Foreign Ministry for himself, your position will be vulnerable.

How should you conduct yourself? Actively use the media, sharpening your image as a brave defender of “Greater Israel” and as a straight-shooter who is true to her principles. Support the government strongly when you can, as you have done in echoing Netanyahu’s fervent criticism of the Iran nuclear deal, but don’t be afraid to stake out your own positions and to play to your right-wing constituency. Remember that you made your splash on the national scene as a blunt and plain-spoken political commentator, and play to your strengths.

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