I am often amazed at how misguided some political leaders can be about their own societies. Take Israel’s opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, as a prime example.
Livni spoke this morning (February 7) at the Herzliya Conference, an annual “summit meeting” bringing together some of the most influential Israeli and international political, economic, academic and media leaders. The Conference has previously witnessed the unveiling of major diplomatic and international trade initiatives, and is often used as a sounding board for political policy innovations.
In addressing her vision for Israel’s future, Livni remarked (as reported in The Jerusalem Post) that “The Jewish State is not just a majority of Jews in the State, and is not the ultra-Orthodox interpretation of Judaism. We need to decide what it means.”
“The decision making process is the problem,” she continued, referring to the government and political establishment. “Decisions need to be made for the benefit of the State, and not for political reasons.”
“I believe we can do things differently,” she continued. “All the problems can be solved by a new vision, which will provide a moral significance for Israel, recreating global legitimacy...We can give young people hope.”
To be sure, Livni’s comments need to be said, and often. They need to be internalized by the political and media elites in this country, by the military leadership and by business leaders – and Herzliya is a terrific platform from which to drive this message home.
There are many and varied problems within Israeli society, just as in any other, and these problems can be best summed up with the term “lack of vision.” It has been a long time since Israel’s leadership was graced by true visionary leaders that could capture the imagination of our people and the admiration of the world. Gone is the vision that turned desert into farmland and parched earth into land flowing with milk and honey. And it has been replaced by “leaders” who fumble from one crisis to the next without any real understanding of their causes, and offering band-aid solutions that are often no more than “fighting the last war”.
But what is most remarkable about Livni’s comments is that she is front and center within this group of visionless leaders. For while a fundamental change in decision-making is certainly necessary, and while it is very true that it is our job as citizens of the Jewish state to determine what “Jewish State” actually means and what values underpin that state, Livni’s ideas of such values are sufficiently misguided as to be dangerous.
Speaking of the negotiation process with the Palestinians, Livni remarked that “the two-state solution is not something we’re giving the Palestinians as a favor out of weakness. The two-state solution is part of our values as a Jewish State.”
For someone who has served as our foreign minister and remains within the political leadership of this country, Livni should be very much aware that the Palestinians do perceive Israel as weak. And who wouldn’t, given that the negotiations over the past 20 years have featured Israeli concession after Israeli concession, while the Palestinians have increased their maximalist demands over time and refuse to budge on a single one of them. Livni herself, as foreign minister, encountered the most fundamental level of this refusal first hand, when her negotiating counterparts at the Annapolis Conference refused outright to recognize Israel as the home of the Jewish nation.
But to say that the two- state solution is part of our Jewish values is even worse. Nowhere in our national ethos does it say that Zionism means the creation of a non-Jewish state in the land of Israel. In fact, just the opposite is true. We are enjoined in the Torah (the basic document underpinning Jewish Values throughout history) not to conclude treaties with foreign entities ceding territory to them in the Land of Israel (Deut. 7:2).
How then does Livni equate dividing the Land of Israel and allowing part of it to be used to set up a state for another group of people – a group that refuses to acknowledge our rights to our own homeland – with Jewish values?
Tzipi Livni simply does not understand that the only vision that “will provide a moral significance for Israel” and will “recreate global legitimacy” while giving our young people hope, is one that begins once again to champion the Jewish right to the Land of Israel. That was the Zionist vision of a century ago – the vision that ignited the national rebirth of our nation in such historic proportions. And that is the vision that can once again spur our people, providing the moral significance necessary to make this country a home that the entire Jewish nation can be proud of.