(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni will be able to protect Israel – on both the Iranian and Palestinian fronts – better than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Livni said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Livni said Netanyahu tries to present an image as a strong leader who can face challenges, but that he is really weak and his decisions are connected to his political survival.
His insistence on speaking to Congress in Washington proved that he was willing to pay an enormous price that harmed Israel to help himself politically, she said.
“I believe we know how to work better with the international community to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Livni said. “The way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is to speak intimately with the US. This is something we can do, and Netanyahu can’t. On security, on peace talks, meeting the challenge of Iran, we can handle it better.”
Livni reacted to charges from Netanyahu that she and Herzog would make too many concessions on the Palestinian front. She said she had proved herself in diplomatic talks that achieved American recognition of settlement blocs and the international community ruling out a Palestinian right of return for refugees.
“I preserved Israeli interests better than Netanyahu,” she said. “I was there negotiating for many hours, and I didn’t give up. I can maintain Israeli interests while having the support of the world. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas discovered the weakness of Israel under Netanyahu – the world. The day after I get elected, the diplomatic tsunami will stop.”
Asked why the Zionist Union has been careful not to use the word “peace” in its campaign, she said an agreement is needed as soon as possible to keep Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.
“We are not going to give up our quest for peace, but we are realistic enough to know things won’t change in a few hours,” Livni said. “I don’t promise young people peace around the corner, but I promise we won’t stop pursuing it.”
Just as Netanyahu did with her, Livni ruled out a national unity government with him.
“It’s a matter of vision,” she said. “Our vision is different. A unity government is easier in terms of numbers [of MKs]. But we have differences and gaps. I prefer to have a government that is based on our vision.”
Asked how the Zionist Union could build a coalition, Livni said she knows more than anyone how difficult it is, because she failed to form one in 2009. But she recalled that in 2009, Netanyahu had 61 Knesset seats in his pocket, but now he does not.
When asked whether she would leave political life if the Zionist Union lost the race, she said she tried to quit politics in the past and realized she was incapable of sitting on the sidelines while disastrous positions are adopted.
Reacting to positive polls, she said she “smelled hope in the air,” but that it is risky to declare victory prematurely.
She recalled that she has seen different results at the ballot box than what the opinion polls had predicted before.
“We can’t celebrate until a coalition is formed,” Livni said. “It’s not over until it’s over.”