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Why the Worthy Tzipi Livni Is Irrelevant to the Israeli Political Landscape

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Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak.
Tzipi Livni reportedly met Ehud Barak in New York to discuss a new political grouping.Credit: David Bachar , Moti Milrod

Tzipi Livni is a very worthy public figure. Her personal and ethical standards are higher than those of many politicians. Throughout her political career, particularly as she advanced and approached the summit, she was persecuted and suffered because she was a woman (during the last elections the right wing’s incitement against her crossed all boundaries of vileness, misogyny and mean-spiritedness), especially on the background of her laudable ideological flexibility and liberal values.

And yet, upon reading Yossi Verter’s column in Haaretz relating to a meeting held by Livni and Ehud Barak at the Clinton Foundation’s annual meeting coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly meeting, in which the two discussed political scenarios as part of Livni’s efforts to establish a new democratic bloc, one cannot but conclude that the wares she is selling have no buyers. She is irrelevant.

More than any other Israeli politician, Livni represents diplomatic finesse and polish, that which includes warm relations with top leaders, diplomatic processes, plans with high-flown names, conferences, meetings, international initiatives, the Saban Forum, the Clinton Foundation meeting, Davos, cocktails, Madeleine Albright, Tony Blair. This isn’t Netanyahu-style hedonism, but Livni holds the record for overseas traveling among Knesset members, attending meetings and events that have no bearing on Israeli reality. “Yesterday at NYU I clarified some basic facts in order to bridge the gap between what we really are and the way we’re perceived in the world”; “Sting opens the annual awards ceremony at the Clinton conference for outstanding achievements in leadership and public policy” (latest tweets from Livni’s Twitter account).

Israeli society, as part of a global trend, is in the midst of a dumbing-down trend, accompanied by accelerated ultranationalism. Beyond the revulsion and despair this evokes, it’s possible and worthwhile to discern through this an authentic demand for concretization, simplicity, truth, which lamentably is now wrongly identified with contemptible people such as Donald Trump. This is also a counter-reaction to the politics of Davos, the Saban Forum and cocktail parties that have no bearing on anyone’s lives except on those participating in those events, conducting an inner circle theater, arranging political constellations for themselves or at least an invitation to the next such prestigious event. This is why Hillary Clinton is eating the dust of a stupid thug, instead of breezing through to the presidency. Ordinary people have had enough with these pompous shows.

The person who, as usual, grasps the new rules and makes effective use of them is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who comes to the General Assembly every year with a firecracker or flexible rabbit he pulls out of his hat. Netanyahu puts on his show as the defender of Israel and the Jews, and returns home to his Likud voters.

It’s not certain that Barak, whom Livni met with, is the panacea. Due to the withdrawal from Lebanon he orchestrated and his plodding practicality he is identified, in contrast to Livni, with courage and the ability to carry out difficult decisions. But he, too, is alienated from people’s gut feelings. The public doesn’t care about decisions made by the Quartet nor, regrettably, about the High Court of Justice decision regarding the evacuation of Amona.

There is a condemnable narrow-mindedness here, but Israeli citizens, like their American and Greek counterparts, are occupied with the costs of car insurance, childcare and emergency wards in which they are stuck for hours.

The struggle over the character of Israeli society does not pass through conferences in New York or Washington, but through a subsidized swimming pool in the Galilee or in a Haifa suburb, in which Arabs aren’t welcome. Not in initiatives and conferences praising democracy, but with on-the-spot assistance to a leftist activist who is threatened on Facebook, or help to a Palestinian who is arrested because of a Facebook posting.

If there is a way in which Trumpism or Bibi-ism can be defeated, convincing people of the left’s path, it probably takes that route.

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