(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni undermined her own message that Iran is a threat to the whole world, and not only Israel, by breaking diplomatic decorum and attending a protest rally against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad organized by a coalition of Jewish groups on Monday, officials in the Foreign Ministry said.
According to the officials, Israel's policy on the Iranian nuclear file dating back to the Ariel Sharon years was that Jerusalem should keep a low public profile on the issue, and let the rest of the world take the lead, to keep Ahmadinejad from framing the matter into little more than an Israeli-Iranian dispute.
Click below to view footage of Livni's speech from today's demonstration. Footage courtesy of the Israeli Consulate in New York.
By taking part in a rally across from the UN organized by Jewish groups, the officials said, Livni was playing into the hands of those waiting to portray Israel and the "Jewish lobby" as a force pushing the US into military action against Iran, just as they are blaming the Jews for pushing Washington to war in Iraq.
"Up until now we have tried to lower our public profile on the matter," one official said. "By taking the lead on this we are sending the wrong message. The average American viewer will see a demonstration of Jewish organizations with the participation of the foreign minister of Israel and ask, 'Is this whole thing any concern of ours?'" The official said it was one thing to take up this issue aggressively in diplomatic meetings, and inside the halls of the UN, and quite another to take the lead on the street.
"Over the last two weeks the country has learned something about the power of silence," the official said, referring to the wall of silence Israel has put up surrounding the alleged raid into Syria. "This is going back to the art of noise."
Livni, at the rally, said, "Iran is not only a threat to Israel, and not only a threat to its neighbors, but a threat to the entire world."
A spokesman for Livni had no response to the criticism Monday night. Before the demonstration, however, sources close to Livni said she decided to participate because she felt very strongly the world was not taking tough enough action against the Iranian nuclear threat, and this was an opportunity to sound the alarm.
"Where is the world?" she said at the rally. "Where are its values? Why does it hesitate, while Iran casts its dark shadow of terror across the globe? While its president mocks the Holocaust and markets hate? We are here to tell the world - to demand from the world - to wake up before it is too late."