Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz intends to take seriously Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s challenge on foreign policy issues and build his international
credentials ahead of the next election, sources close to the Kadima head said
Netanyahu said in a press conference Tuesday that Israel
needs a leader that is able to hold his weight in the international
Mofaz’s associates said that criticism could apply to Labor leader
Shelly Yacimovich, who called herself a candidate for prime minister this
week. But they said Netanyahu’s attack could not have been directed at
Mofaz, who has diplomatic experience as defense minister and later as the
minister in charge of the strategic dialogue with the United States on Iran.
They shunned comparisons with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who came to
Israel this week to build his foreign policy credentials.
“The key posts
Mofaz has held in his career give him a lot to say on foreign policy issues,” a
source close to him said. “He believes he will be the next prime minister, so it
is important that he meet world leaders and get his views out there.”
that end, Mofaz is seeking a meeting with US President Barack Obama. He also
wants to travel to Ankara to meet with Turkish leaders. According to protocol,
as the opposition leader, he will meet with foreign dignitaries who visit
Mofaz has been a staunch defender of Obama’s policies on Israel.
His associates said Mofaz believes the Obama administration’s contributions to
Israel are above and beyond what an American president needs to do.
they said he would be a statesman-like opposition leader, unlike his predecessor
Tzipi Livni, who they said crossed traditional red lines in criticizing the
prime minister abroad.
“Shaul has a lot of criticism for Netanyahu’s
handling of the relationship with the US,” a Mofaz associate said. “When he goes
abroad, he will not besmirch [Netanyahu], but he will show that there is an
opposition now in Israel and it has a different point of view than the
Mofaz has built up a strong relationship with US Ambassador
to Israel Dan Shapiro, who testified before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee at Mofaz’s invitation.
Yacimovich is also building up
her international credentials, but at a different pace and volume. Since
her election as Labor leader in September, she has not left Israel, but she has
met many ambassadors and her associates said she is planning a trip abroad in a
few months to meet with leaders of other social-democratic
Sources close to Yacimovich downplayed the importance of her
building up an international resume. They said she would continue to defer on
foreign policy issues to those with more experience internationally such as MK
Isaac Herzog, Labor’s de facto foreign minister.
“Obama got elected
without experience,” a Labor source said. “She doesn’t think [going abroad] will
bring her votes. It would deviate from her message, which is socioeconomic and