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 .