Tzipi Gets A Gun

Gershom Gorenberg

In America, they have an election for national leader every four years. Then they’re stuck with whatever they bought, whether it works or not. Here we have an election whenever the humidity, the soccer results, the stock market and the mood in the State Prosecutor’s Office line up in a formula known only to several deceased alchemists. But the rumors are that we’ll have one this year. That explains why a leak just appeared in a British paper on Tzipi Livni’s previous life as a spook, as I explain in my new column at The American Prospect :

One line of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s resume has always been an enigma. From 1980 to 1984, it says, Livni served in the Mossad. This week, some details of her work in the ultra-secretive espionage agency emerged in the Sunday Times of London . While based in Paris, an acquaintance told the paper, “Tzipi was not an office girl. … She blended in well in European capitals, working with male agents, most of them ex-commandos, taking out Arab terrorists.” Her closest female partner was Mira Gal, who is now Livni’s bureau chief at the Foreign Ministry, the Times said, hinting at a sisterhood of old spooks.

You don’t need a conspiratorial mind-set to assume that Livni, or an ex-spook close to her, planned the placement and timing of that report. Because it was published abroad, there was no risk of the Israeli military censor blue-penciling it, but it was quickly picked up by the Hebrew media. It came just as Livni was preparing for a political battle to replace scandal-tainted Ehud Olmert as head of the Kadima party and as prime minister. The intended message was: She may never have been a general, but Tzipi Livni knows about national security from the inside, and she is a very tough — even cold-blooded — woman. It was therefore also a statement about the added, conflicting demands a woman candidate faces in defining herself as she seeks to be a nation’s leader in time of war. As if another reminder were needed this year.

Thanks to a multiparty system, I expect to be able to vote for someone with a deeper understanding of how to reach peace, not to mention better social policies. But the whispers about Livni being “weak” (perhaps because she had doubts that turning Lebanon into rubble would get our captives back) raise some important issues about gender in Israeli politics. Read more here .

4 thoughts on “Tzipi Gets A Gun”

  1. Many Israelis have this infantile idea that military people are the best leaders when the opposite is, in fact, the case. The American people understand this and as a result have had only a few Generals as President and there is a law specifically preventing Generals as serving as Defense Secretary (a special waiver was made in 1950 that allowed General George C Marshall to serve in that position at the beginning of the Korean War). The fact that Zippi may have “chased terrrorists” around Europe for a few months (maybe all she did was operate a safe house for the active agents and her main duty was to get sandwiches for them) has NO BEARING whatsoever on her qualifications to be Prime Minister. History has shown that the worst periods of terrorism in recent Israeli history was when “tough generals” were running the country. Rabin was PM when Oslo was foisted on the country which led to a big increase in terrorism. Under non-general Netanyahu, there was little terrorism. Putting General Barak back in led to the outbreak of the Oslo suicide bomber war in 2000. He was followed by “tough general” Sharon under whom the violence got even worse. Finally, public opinion forced him to act, against his wishes, after the Pesach Night Massacre in March 2002. However, in order to make up for this, Sharon decided to destroy Gush Katif, directly leading to the endless rocket fire and terrorism in the South, now being presided over “tough General” Barak, the so-called “Defense” Minister. It is time for Israelis to wake up to the fact that the ability to move troops around on the battlefield, or to train soldiers to take out terrorists HAS NO CONNECTION WHATSOEVER with one’s ability to conduct national policy.

  2. Wonderful idea: only “several deceased alchemists” know the formula.

    I wish I would remember what made me dislike Tzipi?

  3. My own reasoning is that Mofaz has little or no objection to breaking up Kadima and taking its right faction back into Likud (via a temporary face saving electoral coalition, perhaps). Livni, on the other hand, wants to keep Kadima in one piece. This relates to her comprehension of the likely needs of the US partner, which is heading in a centrist direction as the Bush era finally draws to its inglorious close.

    If I am correct, then, Mofaz has the greater incentive to press for early Kadima leadership elections, his hope being to bring into being the aforesaid electoral coalition with Likud before Bush’s term is up. Conversely, Livni would prefer to hold off until after November.

    If this is incorrect, then my assessment of their respective motives is also incorrect.

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