Forward Thinking

Tzipi Livni on American Politics

By Jane Eisner

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Tzipi Livni

On the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama, Israel’s opposition leader was on the phone.

Tzipi Livni sounded weary. Never mind the geopolitical debate about if and when Israel or the United States should take military action against Iran, Livni has a more immediate preoccupation: Her Kadima party’s March 27 election. Her leadership is being actively challenged and that’s called into question her many decisions as opposition leader since her rival, Netanyahu, formed a right-wing coalition in 2009 — a coalition she declined to join.

“Three years in opposition, it’s quite frustrating, for me and the voters,” she acknowledged. “In Israel, the opposition never topples down the government. The government falls from the inside.”

Ah, but what about toppling the American government?

After all, the richest Jew in America, Sheldon Adelson, has been credited with single- handedly keeping alive Newt Gingrich’s presidential prospects. And Adelson is a strong supporter of Netanyahu, particularly through Israel Hayom, the most popular newspaper in Israel.

Is the Israeli prime minister indirectly trying to shape the U.S. election? Livni took some time to answer.

“I want to be diplomatic,” she finally said. “Until a few years ago, a few months ago, Israel was not part of the agenda in a U.S. election, and it shouldn’t be. It should remain bipartisan. Now it has become part of the campaign.”

And is that a good thing, or a troubling development? “I prefer not to have Israel part of the internal elections in the U.S. It is not a dispute that can be dealt with during election time,” she said.

I wonder whether the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council would agree.


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