Tzipi Livni

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You are Tzipi Livni, Leader of the Opposition



“The two-state solution is a pure Israeli interest. It’s something we need for ourselves, not a favor to the Palestinians or to the President of the United States."

“The people of Israel have a national and historic right to the land of Israel. Because there is a need for Israel to remain a Jewish majority, we will have to give up part of the land of Israel in order to maintain a democratic, Jewish state.”

“People say, ‘They (President Abbas and his allies) are not willing to end the conflict.’ I know that they are willing to do so, but they are willing to do so if they get what they want.”

Early Years and Education

You were born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1958. You are the daughter of a Polish born former member of the right-wing Irgun militia who was also a Likud Member of Parliament. You served as a Lieutenant in the Israeli Defense Forces and worked for the Mossad for four years during the early 1980s. You graduated from Bar Ilan University’s Faculty of Law. You have years of experience as a lawyer and specialize in public, commercial, constitutional and real estate law. You practiced law in a private firm for ten years before entering politics.

Public Life

In 1996, you were appointed Director General of the Government Companies authority. In this role, you were in charge of the privatization of government corporations and monopolies. You were elected to the Knesset in 1999 as a member of the Likud Party, and you served as a member of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women. At various times between 2000 and 2005 you served in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s cabinet as Minister of Agriculture, Immigrant Absorption, and Housing and Construction.

In 2005, you joined Sharon when he left the Likud party and founded the new Kadima Party. Sharon had alientaed many in his part by excuting a plan through which Israel unilaterally “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip (meaning that Israelis living in Gaza were removed, along with soldiers on the ground-Israel retained control of borders and the air). However, in January 2006, Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke that left him in coma, where he remains as of 2013, and Ehud Olmert took over as party leader. The new party won the election in March 2006, and when Olmert took office as Prime Minister, you strongly supported him and were appointed Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, becoming only the second female in Israeli history to head the foreign ministry.

Your tenure as Foreign Minister included the tempestuous years in the wake of Israel’s controversial disengagement from the Gaza Strip. The 2008 Gaza War reflected the upheaval that occurred in the wake of that disengagement, where many Israelis felt that militants in Hamas-run Gaza Strip were running wild with missile attacks on Israel, and where the Palestinians felt that Israel was completely bypassing them diplomatically. In this regard, your more conciliatory stance towards the Palestinians reassured those in Israel and the West, and left many advocates hoping for your success when, in the wake of Ehud Olmert’s resignation, you took over as head of Kadima and ran against Benjamin Netanyahu and your former Likud Party in 2009. You narrowly lost that election, however, and chose not to have Kadima join the government, opting rather to lead the opposition. Netanyahu grew stronger over the next few years, and by 2012 you lost the leadership of Kadima to Shaul Mofaz and quit the party. Together with refugees from Kadima and the Labor Party you formed a party called “Ha’Tnuah” (The Movement), and you fared well enough in the 2013 elections that you were invited to join Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government and to serve both as Minister of Justice and to be the point person for future negotiations with the Palestinians.

Domestic Issues of Concern

As a member of the Kadima party, you favored the creation of two states to bring about peace in Israel. You avidly supported Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan and were considered to be one of the more dovish members of the Likud party when you were affiliated with it. You think it is important to have a sovereign Jewish and democratic state in the Jewish homeland, but you continue to feel that in order to realize this goal, a two state solution must be implemented.

Your decision in 2009 to lead the opposition was a calculated political risk, based at least partially in your feeling that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not truly interested in a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, and that this fact would damage relations between Israel and the West, an eventuality that would ultimately weaken Netanyahu. This, in turn, would allow you to gain the upper hand politically, while keeping you untarnished by association with Netanyahu’s government. While Netanyahu had his problems, he remained politically strong, and you paid the price for what many considered to be your miscalculation by losing the Kadima leadership. As Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Justice Minister and Chief Peace Negotiator, you hoped to lead Israel back towards meaningful diplomatic engagement with the Palestinians while rehabilitating your political career. It is generally acknowledged that while you did not succeed at the former, you may well have accomplished the latter...the 2015 elections will tell at least a part of that tale.

Foreign Relations

Israel has strong economic relations with the European Union, and fairly good political ones, though the EU would like to see Israel’s diplomatic stance reflecting more of your beliefs than it does now. Of course, relations with the United States remain vital to Israel, both economically and strategically, and your appointment as Benjamin Netanyahu’s Chief Peace Negotiator was seen as a nod to American and other Western supporters who questioned Netanyahu’s commitment to a peace process with the Palestinians. There are many nations who support Israel and at the same time sympathize with and support the Palestinians and the cause of a two-state solution as well, and many observers were deeply curious to see whether your appointment represented a change in Israeli policy, or whether it was more of a “fig leaf” meant to give Prime Minister Netanyahu political cover as he continues to move slowly with regard to the Palestinians. It turned out to be that latter, as during the unsuccessful 2013-2014 peace negotiations facilitated by American Secretary of State John Kerry, you came to increasingly feel undermined by Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as frustrated by what you saw as a narrowness of vision on his part. These tensions came to head in December 2014 when Netanyahu fired you from his cabinet, and called for new elections in March 2015. It was only a matter of a couple of weeks before you announced an affiliation between your new Ha’Tnuah (“The Movement”) Party with the Labor Party--this coalition is called Zionist Center. You and Labor Party head Chaim Herzog agreed to share the Prime Ministership in the event that your Zionist Center Coalition won the election, but you fell short and once again went into the opposition.

You maintained your political alliance with the Labor Party, though, choosing to stay in the opposition this time, rather than accepting invitations from Prime Minister Netanyahu to join the government. In 2017, the Labor Party elected Avi Gabbay as its leader, rejecting Isaac Herzog, and with that, you were in line to become the official head of the Opposition in the Israeli Parliament, owing to the fact that Mr. Gabbay was not a member of parliament. It still had to be made official, though, and you decided to force the issue, announcing that your party would leave the alliance if you weren’t chosen as Opposition Leader. Mr. Gabbay and the Labor Party accepted your terms, and in your agreement with Gabbay, you agreed that in the next elections (scheduled for November 2019) Gabbay would be the bloc’s candidate for Prime Minister.

Role Playing Notes

You are a strong proponent of a two-state solution and have become the most visible leader of Israel’s peace camp, a fact that probably says more about Israel’s profoundly wary outlook on a possible peace process than it does about you. Indeed, you believe that the only way for Israel to attain true stability is to make meaningful concessions to the Palestinians—a policy that many of your former partners in the Likud-headed coalition oppose. Your efforts to reshape the foreign policy of the Netanyahu government over recent months, while unsuccessful, have given you new visibility and enhanced credibility. Your polticial career is at a crossroads, and you must fight the perception that you are a desperate person, clinging to power for its own sake—you must show both your independence and your relevance, and taken together this makes for a tall order. Keep in mind, though, that you are widely respected by the Palestinian Authority leadership, and should your Zionist Union ever defeat Netanyahu’s Likud Party, you would likely have the opportunity to finally deliver a negotiated solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

References 'There Will Be Two States'

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