Tzipi Livni is a generally well-liked, respected and intelligent person. But she is one of the least talented politicians ever to lead a major party in Israel. Her latest missed opportunity was her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg and James Bennet, published on The Atlantic’s website today.
Her main failure in the interview stemmed from her empty warning to the Atlantic duo the meeting was not to be an “oy vey conversation.” Livni presumably was well aware The Atlantic would be much more interested in getting her to criticize Benjamin Netanyahu than anything else, and indeed the interview progressed in exactly that fashion, making Livni look weak and opportunistic. There are no new ideas advanced, so Livni continues to give the impression she has none to offer. And the interviewers didn’t do themselves any favors either, as evidenced by the following exchange:
TL: I know that they know we are strong enough. And our relations with the United States are part of this. This is one part of the answer. Whether some of them are thinking about stages? Maybe. But this is our responsibility to take this into consideration and put into an agreement all the parameters to ensure Israel’s security. But I think we already have built the iron wall, and I think Israel is being weakened now by the way Netanyahu speaks. The stronger he speaks, the weaker Israel is.
When Kadima left the government, the world was delegitimizing Hamas, Gaza was under siege, we were negotiating with the Palestinians, we were working with pragmatic Palestinians, our ability to act against terror came from our legitimacy. Now look what’s happened. In the flotilla incident, after two minutes the world was against us.
Q: So Netanyahu is delegitimizing Israel?
Excuse me? That’s the follow-up to such a whopper? Livni’s suggestion that things were good when Kadima was in charge is met with another question prodding her to say something nasty about Netanyahu?
A better follow-up might have asked Livni to recall the legitimacy of Israel’s governance and military performance were both at their lowest levels in memory when Netanyahu took over from her. Under Kadima’s leadership, Israel had so ineptly prosecuted the Second Lebanon War (and especially the public perception of the war) that a change in both civilian and military leadership was demanded by the public. The reputation of the mighty IDF was badly damaged. Ehud Olmert, under investigation for corruption, left office under a cloud of suspicion and resentment, much to the humiliation of the Jewish state and its allies.
To be sure, Livni is not Olmert, and shouldn’t be saddled with his burdens and his failures. But neither can she possibly suggest that “our ability to act against terror came from our legitimacy,” when her party’s leadership produced neither an ability to act against terror nor much legitimacy.
Livni is a frustrating case, because she has potential. But her ability to get sucked into an interview with major American journalists that produced only partisan sniping and backbench bellyaching is a good reminder of why she is not leading the country.