Livni the leader, or Livni the lamb?

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What is one to make of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni? Is she the next Golda Meir? Is she a woman of steel who can stand before world leaders and demand that they treat Israel with respect? Can she win a war? Can she – as Golda did in the Yom Kippur War – keep her head when all about her are losing theirs and blaming it on her?

On Sunday, Livni dutifully followed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in voting to approve the terrorists-for-dead-hostages deal with Hizbullah. Despite the government's best efforts to put a brave face on the decision, the deal with Hizbullah is arguably the most humiliating step ever taken by a government of Israel.

In exchange for the bodies of two dead soldiers – Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser – Israel has succumbed to all of Hizbullah's demands. It will release six murderers from prison and send them to Lebanon for a hero's welcome. It will give Hizbullah the bodies of 200 terrorists and so empty Israel's Potters Field for terrorists. Moreover, it has pledged to close Israel's graveyard for terrorists and so has committed future governments to never keeping terrorists' bodies as bargaining cards for future swaps of Israeli hostages. Israel has agreed to provide Hizbullah with information on four missing Iranian "diplomats." And it has agreed to release an unknown number of Palestinian terrorists from prison.

This deal will cement Iran's control of Lebanon through Hizbullah. It also all but guarantees that any future Israeli soldiers taken hostage by Hizbullah will be killed on the spot. Why care for hostages when you can murder them and expect to receive the same payoff you would get if you kept them alive?

Livni voted for this deal along with 21 of her fellow ministers. Unlike her colleagues, who hide behind their surrogates and spokesmen, Livni is out in front – lying to the public about the nature of her action.

Obviously cognizant of just how humiliating and strategically disastrous this deal is for Israel, Livni is spinning her move in a naked attempt to shirk her responsibility for having voted as she did.

After the government's vote, Livni told reporters that she will not support implementing her own decision if the Palestinians Israel releases are "central terrorist operatives." She will only agree to release terrorists who are small-time operators. And if she is called upon to release senior terrorists, she will not support moving ahead.

LIVNI'S STATEMENT is disturbing on many levels. First, it raises the disconcerting prospect that the government never discussed the identity – or number – of Palestinian terrorists it just agreed to release. Are we to believe that Livni sat through a five-hour cabinet meeting and never once asked who she was voting to release? Is it possible that Israel's Foreign Minister never took it upon herself to be informed of the substance of her decisions? Beyond that, how could she have voted to approve a deal that she doesn't understand?

More than anything, Livni's statement is depressing for what it says about her character – or lack thereof. By making this statement, Livni was attempting to evade responsibility for her own actions. And these actions go beyond her vote in favor of this execrable, morally atrocious and strategically disastrous deal with Hizbullah. They consist of all her moves as foreign minister since Regev and Goldwasser were abducted from their position at the border with Lebanon on July 12, 2006.

From the earliest stages of Israel's war with Hizbullah two years ago, Livni preached defeatism. Livni began calling for a negotiated cease-fire that would leave Hizbullah in charge of South Lebanon just hours after Hizbullah attacked Goldwasser's and Regev's unit and began bombing northern Israel with rockets. She exhorted her colleagues that Israel had no prospects for military victory. Livni did this even as it was clear that the only good option Israel had was to fight for a military victory.

Had Israel defeated Iran's foreign legion in Lebanon on the battlefield, it would have secured northern Israel and enabled the March 14 democracy movement to fulfill its promise of transforming Lebanon into a multi-ethnic democracy. Already on July 12, 2006, it was clear that an Israeli defeat would pave the way for Hizbullah's takeover of the country.

Yet in the face of this known reality, Livni called for Israel to capitulate. The policy she advocated involved Israel throwing itself at the mercy of the UN and begging the Security Council to deploy forces to the border to protect Israel. And in the end, Livni's defeatism was embraced by Olmert and her fellow ministers and so Israel lost its first war.

On the ground, the international forces whose deployment along the border was the centerpiece of Livni's policy are a joke. As was foreseen by her critics both within the government and in the public discourse at the time, UNIFIL is wholly ineffective because it has absolutely no interest in fighting Hizbullah. As expected, it has done nothing to prevent Hizbullah's rearmament. It has done nothing to protect the pro-democratic forces in Lebanon from Hizbullah. Indeed, in Hizbullah's putsch last month, UNIFIL forces behaved as if nothing was going on. Far from protecting Israel's border, UNIFIL forces have acted as a buffer to enable Hizbullah to reassert its control over the border unchallenged.

LIVNI OF course, has never acknowledged her own mistakes or share of responsibility for this dismal state of affairs. And now, after voting to cement Hizbullah's victory over Israel, far from accepting responsibility for the situation she has been instrumental in fomenting, Livni makes self-serving and patently false statements to reporters in an obvious attempt to hide her own basic defeatism.

Livni's character and behavior are worth considering because the media has all but anointed her Israel's next prime minister. Every article about businessmen making cash payments to Olmert is accompanied by a fawning profile of Livni. She is down to earth. She looks good in tailored pants suits. She is hard working. She isn't a thief. And she plays the drums.

The media would have us believe that the mere fact that Livni is not under police investigation renders her competent to lead the country. Obviously this is ridiculous. The real question is not whether Livni is a crook, but whether she is a leader. Is she?

OVER THE past three years, Livni has introduced and implemented a new doctrine for Israeli foreign policy. Its central theme is Jewish powerlessness. Livni has expressed this basic guiding notion in every major foreign policy address she has given since late 2005. Most recently, she repeated her view at a speech at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies on June 22.

There Livni explained that Israel's legitimacy as the Jewish state is conditional. The Jewish people's right to sovereignty is completely dependent on Israel's acceptance by the international community. And in her mind, that acceptance is completely contingent on the push to establish a Palestinian state.

As she put it, "Today, the existence of Israel is being delegitimized, not just its physical survival, but also its existence as the national home for the Jewish people… Only the fact that a profound international argument is being waged because of the Palestinians' demand for their own national state leads the world to perceive Israel's demand to be recognized as a national home for the Jewish people as legitimate… That means that [the Palestinians‚] demand solidifies and reinforces the perception of the existence of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people."

In other words, as Livni sees things, if Israel is not perceived as wholly committed to Palestinian statehood – by the Arabs and the
West alike – then the world will never accept Israel and therefore, in her view, Israel's right to exist will disintegrate.

Livni's doctrine is unacceptable for two basic reasons. First, it is inherently bigoted against Jews. Livni's world view is built on the assertion that unlike every other nation on earth, the Jewish nation has no inherent, natural right to self-determination.

Moreover, from her perspective, Israel itself is completely powerless to change the situation. It cannot defend itself in international arenas. It can only bow to the prevailing winds and hope for the best. So in Livni's view, the fact that Israel has already existed as the sovereign Jewish state for 60 years has in no way changed the Jewish people's status. We are just as vulnerable to the political machinations of others today as we were for 2000 years of stateless exile, and we are fated to always be powerless. By her lights, our hard-won sovereignty is an empty shell that can never be filled.

LIVNI'S DOCTRINE does not merely make clear that she is a deeply limited thinker. It also exposes her as a follower. British Field Marshal Bernhard Montgomery once said, "My definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence." The essence of leadership is the ability to present people a vision of a goal and then rally them to work with you towards achieving it.

Livni's world view is completely antithetical to this basic central notion of leadership. Far from rallying the people to a common purpose, she tells us that there is no goal we can achieve. As far as she's concerned, our state is nothing at all. Our power is nothing. Our collective will to persevere is counter-productive. Our heritage has value only if outsiders recognize it. Our rights are only as great as others' willingness to accept them.

Livni is not the first empty shell to be proclaimed by Israel's media as the next great white hope. Others, such as former IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and former Labor party leader Amram Mitzna, have also enjoyed that distinction. After years of media build-up, both men were quickly exposed as followers once they were actually challenged to lead.

It can only be hoped that Livni will be similarly challenged and so exposed before she is propelled to Israel's top spot. The nation can scarcely afford to be led by another weak-kneed sheep.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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  • Anne Julienne 06/30/2008 at 23:16

    I’m all yours, Caroline. Lead me wherever you will so long as you speak thus so divinely. I’m not a Jew, I’m not in Israel, but I can abide with you all the same.

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 07/01/2008 at 1:48

    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is no “Golda Meir” nor will she attain the stature of that former prime minister. Israel sorely needs a statesman for prime minister, and not a politician. The policies of the Kadima and Labor Parties are sending Israel into a tailspin. And the Kadima Party is morally bankrupt and should disband for the sake of the nation. It’s time to bring the Likud Party back to power and have a fresh vision for Israel’s future. Without a change at the top, Israel will suffer enormous consequences.

  • Dan 07/01/2008 at 5:29

    Well, when she was at Annapolis, she came off as a mewling farce, lamenting “why won’t anyone shake my hand.”
    Hardly equal to the challenge I would say.
    Pope Pius X died in mid August, 1914, weeks after the start of the Great War, which meant the College of Cardinal had to conclave to elect a new Pope. One of the Cardinals overheard a brief “discussion” between the German Cardinal von Hartmann of Cologne, and the Belgian Cardinal Mercier of Mechlin. The German approached the Belgian and said to him: “Let us not talk about war.” To which the Belgian immediately responded “Let’s not talk about peace.”
    I would say the Belgian had the right attitude.
    I can’t imagine Livni even remotely thinking something like that, and I definitely don’t credit her for being that quick-witted, and that sure-footed.

  • Philippe Ohlund 07/01/2008 at 14:30

    Hi Caroline, you write:
    “we are fated to always be powerless”.
    It grieves me that you feel like this.
    Remember that nothing is impossible with God, and that we can do everything through Him.
    I can see that much of our critics are unfair toward Israel.
    How can the Church be a better friend to Israel?
    We have been a bad brother, haven’t we?
    Israel does not really have a political problem, but a more serious one – a Religious problem.
    You can find God, and His promises for you, and then you will start to believe that you can walk on the waters, and then you will do it.

  • Marcel 07/01/2008 at 16:06

    “Livni explained that Israel’s legitimacy as the Jewish state is conditional. The Jewish people’s right to sovereignty is completely dependent on Israel’s acceptance by the international community.”
    It is no accident that Olmert,Barak and Livni are at the top in Israeli politics.
    There is an global agenda to bring true and lasting peace to the Middle East and that involves a neutered Israel ready for the final knife in the back.
    Defeatist Jews who no longer are willing to fight to defent their land and right to live are the only candidates alowed access to grovel before world leaders for whatever meatless bone thye may throw at the Jews.
    Only beggars like Livni and Olmert are allowed to approach with heads bowed.
    No strong leaders are permitted to rule Israel only defeatist,loyal lap dogs who do as they are told.Livni ,you have proven to be faithful and trustworthy to our agenda of destroying Israel by our brilliant and diabolical peace scheme.
    Israel could never be defeated by war ,but this peace farce has proven the perfect instrument to deball Israel and render her crazy for anything with the faintest odor of peace and therfore impotent under our spell.
    And so F.M. Livni we salute your defeatist ways which serve us so,so well.
    Remember how at the Annapolis Conference to dismember Israel and strengthen the Islamic terrorists sponsered by Israel’s your closest friend and ally ,F.M. Livni,your were told to use the servants side door so as not to offend the object of our adoration the Arab League ?
    Aaah ,you have proven to be such an obedient and loyal slave,mistress and whore all wrapped into one.
    This is only how we tolerate our Jews in the International community.
    Thank the devil Israel has become so fearful to have any strong leader in place because they know we would cut them into pieces and throw them to the wolves ,which by the way we are already doing.
    How foolish these Jews are who place all of their faith in us ,the international community,ha,aha,ha thye have learned nothing from history ,absoutedly nothing,
    as we now destroy them under the illusion of peace.
    We never thought it would be this easy ,at least we assumed they would put up a fight and not go so willingly to the slaughter again.
    You tired, naive Israeli’s have yet to understand that Israel is a chosen sacrifice by the world community to the followers of the moon god allah.We tell your media who to tear down and who to raise up and they are so loyal to their masters and this is why only a weak,defeatist and capitulating leaders like Barak has risen to the top again.
    He did such a good job fleeing South Lebanon in the night that we determined he should be Defense Minister at this critical time. Our Ehud Barak singlehandedly birthed the defeatist state of Israel on the run,for that we are infernally grateful.
    Israel you Jews make such a good scapegoat now with an army which refuses to fight thank’s to good puppets who always do as they are told.
    F.M. Livni,we thank you as we thank P.M Olmert and D.M. Barak for your beggardly servitude to us.
    For this we will make your end a little less painless than the other’s.
    Please keep trusting us,it’s working so well,this greates of all Trojan peace schemes.
    with great feigned affection,

  • courtneyme109 07/02/2008 at 6:09

    Tzipi shocked the Arab World by dissing Egypts Foreign Minister when he butted in about make believe borders in Jerusalem. A chick dissing an Official Pyramidlander in public by telling him maybe he should worry about REAL borders – like the one betwixt The Strip and Egypt.
    Tzipi has more than meets the eye. The very qualities and qualifications that made Tzipi one of Little Satan’s top agents may very well be called upon again if she replaces PM Olmert as Little Satan’s leader.
    “Specifically, in a time when Israel is fighting for its existence, we cannot
    allow ourselves to forget the aim, the common denominator and the shared values
    that are all the meaning of the existence of Israel: a national homeland for the
    Jewish people, a Jewish and democratic state.
    These two values are connected to each other. This is the thing that connects us with each other.”

  • Marcel 07/02/2008 at 19:46

    The one who acted faster than the slow Israeli police who only wanted to hit the Islamic terrorist in the mouth with his fist says much about secular Jewish society and the religious.
    Duh, slow and trance like act with drugged stupor ,but the religious Jew gets ther Policemans gun and drops the terrorist dead without waiting for Olmert to OK it so as not to offend King George.
    It’s interesting that this was a Torah believing Jew who had to get the gun from a policeman and kill this Islamic terrorist.
    This is the 2nd time this has happened with religious Jew killing a devil driven Palestinian Moslem terrorist as the secular Jews race to help the terrorists and aid and comfort them whenever an opportunity presents itself as with Hezbollah and Sami Kuntar.
    I say ;the sooner secular Israel dies the better because they are killing Israel with their failed and stupid actions on a daily basis.
    Thank God for the religious Jews ,Israel’s only hope.
    After the Palestinian terrorist with an Iraeli ID card was already dead ,the ‘government’ policeman put another bullet into him.
    I wonder if this yeshiva taught off duty IDF soldier had not dropped his bicycle how many more would haver died because of the slow action of the compromised,neutered,politically correct, Olmert,defeatist Police ?
    It seems God is showing us how usless the government and police are and that those of faith are Israel’s only strength and hope for the future.
    2 video’s from youtube here


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