MK Tzipi Livni, Labor-Hatnua’s co-candidate for a rotation premiership, is a contender for prime minister for the third time. She has been in the Knesset for over 15 years, and her moves from Likud to Kadima to Hatnua and now, a partnership with Labor, are as well-known as the political positions that went along with them.
Of course, Livni supports a negotiated two-state solution, and sees herself as the right person to negotiate. Of course, Livni has endless criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And of course, it is important to Livni that the Jewish and democratic elements of Israel’s character stay in balance.
However, Livni still had some surprises up her sleeve on her visit to The Jerusalem Post Election Arena, a new online interview series on JPost.com. Despite battling a cold, Livni spoke about US-Israel relations and her party’s chances in the next election, and gave insight into why the word “peace” has been mostly absent from the election campaign this time around.
On Wednesday, US Speaker of the House John Boehner invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to both houses of Congress; he will be the first politician since Winston Churchill to have done so three times. In light of this, do you still think Netanyahu has contributed to a decline in US-Israel relations?
I believe that relations between Israel and the US are of a strategic nature, and it’s very important that we all keep these relations based on a bipartisan policy. Sometimes it looks like Netanyahu isn’t keeping this bipartisan, but since relations are based on values and real friendship and also interests, I hope it will not affect relations in the future.
Some people see this invitation as one from the Republicans, even though technically it was from both parties. Do you think this is inappropriate political involvement in our upcoming election in Israel?
I believe we all share the idea and interest of preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon. There is no opposition or coalition in Israel on this, and it is also the strategy of the Republicans and the Democrats as well.
The question is how to achieve this goal. I think Israel also understands that achieving this goal involves more than having a good speech; it’s more diplomatic and about how to get everyone on board.
You’ve run on issues of diplomacy in several elections, especially on the issue of peace talks. But you also said recently that the last round of peace talks failed not because of Israel, but because of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. If that’s true, what will be different in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations if you and Isaac Herzog rotate as prime minister?
I can criticize, and I have criticized, the way [Israel] acted during the negotiations, but it is also clear that the March 17  meeting between US President Barack Obama and Abbas failed because Abbas chose not to give an answer to the American proposal that was on the table.
The real question for me as an Israeli leader is not who is to blame, but how can we move forward in accordance to the vision of two states for two peoples, that represents the Israeli interest.
Assuming that Abbas chose a strategy of going to the UN and International Criminal Court against Israel, as an Israeli leader we need to find a way to move forward – whether with him or in another direction.
I believe that [Labor-Hatnua’s] capability of having the world behind us is better than Netanyahu’s, because it is clear to everyone that our goal is to achieve the two states for two peoples solution, and we are willing also to pay some political price in order to do so.
Do you still think Abbas is the best person to work with when you see his party and the PA use language that encourages terrorist attacks, like the one we saw in Tel Aviv this week?
Abbas and the PA fund terrorists’ families.
You know, a few minutes about this terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, which we all condemn, while also supporting those fighting for their lives in hospitals after this attack. I heard that this is something Netanyahu said, blaming Abbas.
So what? Abbas is not the Israeli prime minister. You ask me whether he’s the best [partner]; he’s the only one. The election is in Israel, not in the PA, so any Israeli leader needs to address this situation and this problem. It’s not enough for an Israeli leader to blame the other, he must share with his own people what he is going to do about it. I believe that the day after the election, we will have our opportunity.
I have criticisms of Abbas. I’m completely against what he did, taking us to ICC; it’s also against the Palestinian interest, because he won’t establish a state by taking us to the ICC. This is a tough neighborhood, and any Israeli leader will have to address this situation. Sometimes you have Abbas, sometimes you have Hamas.
Brian from Chicago asked on the ‘Post’ Facebook page: What makes you think the outcome of giving land in the West Bank to the Palestinians will be any different from the outcome of the Gaza disengagement – a Hamas takeover, and rockets shot indiscriminately at Israelis?
I think we need to think about the future of the State of Israel, and the only way to keep the values of the state of is by dividing this tiny place into two – Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, and a Palestinian state. We withdrew from Gaza and we got Hamas in return, and I believe that in regard to Hamas, we need to attack them and use military force, not negotiate with them or show any flexibility when it comes to those using terror against Israel.
As a state, Israel is strong enough to address this kind of problem of military or terror attacks.
I’m not trying to sell to the Israeli public that we have peace around the corner, that when we enter the negotiations room we will sign an agreement and live happily ever after; this is not the situation. I support using the Israeli military [to fight terrorism], but my ideology is not about keeping Greater Israel without any hope for peace.
You’re saying essentially that a two-state solution isn’t what’s going to bring peace, it’s just better for Israel as a society?
I hope in the future it will bring peace, but I am not thinking about peace in a naïve or romantic way. It’s a tough neighborhood, we will face terrorism. The choices in the Middle East are between bad options sometimes, but the other option, of a Greater Israel, won’t be Israel.
It’ll be an ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians that will never end, and we will lose Zionism, which I think is having a Jewish and democratic state.
Labor-Hatnua is leading slightly in the polls, but it may not be enough to build a coalition. How will you avoid a repeat of what you had in 2009, when Kadima won in the numbers, but couldn’t form a government?
It’s true that in the past we had two different blocs, Right and Left, and Netanyahu before the elections had an agreement with his political partners – then it was [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Liberman and the ultra-Orthodox, now it’s [Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali] Bennett and the ultra-Orthodox. Now, you have about 40 seats for the Likud and Bayit Yehudi, and all the others are free actors, in a way; most of the leaders of these parties, who have worked with Netanyahu before, believe he shouldn’t be the next prime minister.
Are you saying you rule out any possibility of a coalition that would have the Likud in it?
No, I’m saying that any coalition should be based on guidelines, on a platform. If Netanyahu would accept [the platform of a Labor-Hatnua led government], then that would be good. But unfortunately, Netanyahu – especially in last few months – is thinking about his base and Bennett, and doesn’t represent what I believe are the best interests of the State of Israel.
Zuzana from Florida asked on our Facebook page: How can voters trust you if you keep jumping from party to party?
I never changed my ideology. She can check all my speeches