Livni: Delegitimization of Israel Exacerbates Other Threats

Opposition leader says her party, Kadima, will support Netanyahu in direct talks with the Palestinians, but criticizes the prime minister's lack of policy.

Speaking at a conference on the threat of the delegitimization of Israel, opposition leader and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said Tuesday that the negative publicity aimed at Israel is limiting the country's ability to protect itself from actual threats.

Itzik Edry

"The threat of delegitimization intensifies other threats facing Israel, and limits our ability to protect ourselves," Livni said at the conference, held by Kadima in cooperation with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "Israel's missiles, tanks and excellent fighters can't properly protect the State of Israel if their hands are tied behind their backs."

"The international community can tie the soldiers' hands behind their backs," she continued. "I hear talk of anti-Semitism, of Israel not having a right to exist – but we can't take the easy way out and say 'the whole world is against us' and that there's nothing to be done."

Livni added that Kadima would support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to participate in the upcoming direct peace negotiations with the Palestinians, slated to begin in Washington on September 2. "The direct talks are especially important," said Livni, who served as Israel's chief peace negotiator during the term of Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert. "I hope the prime minister won't enter the talks as a favor to the Palestinians, or to the U.S., but rather that he will understand that this is in our best interest."

However, she did criticize what she described as the prime minister's lack of action, saying that "public relations are not a substitute for political policy. You can't expect others to understand who we are when we ourselves have not decided who we are. Are we a democracy in which professors can be boycotted over their views? Is there equality or discrimination? Do we create harmony or discord with Israel's Jewish democratic values? If we can't answer these questions for ourselves, we can't expect others to understand us."

"In the absence of good policy, public relations will not help," she went on to say. "The [Gaza-bound] Turkish flotilla is an example of that." Livni referred to the May 31 raid aboard a Turkish aid boat headed for Gaza during which Israeli navy commandos, aiming to prevent the ship from violating Israel's naval blockade on Gaza, were met with violence and ended up killing nine activists.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also spoke at the conference, in his capacity as the special envoy of the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators – The U.S., The United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

Blair called on Israelis and Palestinians to bring serious proposals to the negotiations table in Washington.

Blair said the sides' proposals for how to solve the decades-old conflict's thorniest issues will be a litmus test of seriousness.

Since the new talks were announced last week, both sides have been laying out their starting positions, with Israel demanding security guarantees and the Palestinians rejecting any growth in Israel's West Bank settlements.