The New Goldas

Tzipi Livni and Limor Livnat still wear "Golda's shoes." How embarrassing.

They are both modern women, successful in their fields, well-dressed, born in Israel, both speak fluid, unaccented Hebrew, they look Israeli and up-to-date. And here's the surprise: Golda Meir, the undeniable symbol of the founders' generation and of an anachronistic Israel, who we thought we were well rid of, speaks from their mouths.

As if 40 years hadn't come and gone, as if fashion hadn't changed. Tzipi Livni and Limor Livnat still wear "Golda's shoes." How embarrassing. Foreign Minister Livni says "the Palestinians will be able to celebrate independence only once the word nakba has been erased from their lexicon, while former education minister Livnat wants Arabic revoked as an official state language. The heirs of the one who said that "there were no such thing as Palestinians" have forgotten everything - and learned nothing. They are with us here, her typical pupils, one even striving to become prime minister, an ambition that could be fulfilled soon.

The nationalist, sovereign, condescending and scandalous statements emerged this week from the mouths of these two women. The disappointment is particularly bitter. We have become accustomed to such statements from several men in Israeli politics, but women? The ones who are supposed to provide a breakthrough? A new agenda? The hopes of those who believed women, free of Israeli machismo and militarism (the source of so many disasters), could bear new tidings have been instantly dashed. The Spanish defense minister, Carme Chacon, reviews honor guards while heavily pregnant, visits troops under her command in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Lebanon, accompanied by an obstetrician - a nice visual symbol of the feminist revolution - but in Israel we are still stuck with the same old Goldas. Discouraging news.

The truth is that Livnat is less surprising. Both she and Livni were raised in the lap of Revisionism, but we expected more of the foreign minister. When a senior member of Likud seeks to erase from the official lexicon the language of a fifth of its residents, who have lived here for generations, this suits her nationalist position. But Livni's comments prove there is no difference between her and her colleague to the right. The demand that a people erase its past, ignore and disrespect its national trauma, while we scream ours from the rooftops, is particularly serious coming from Livni, a representative of a centrist party who is considered a moderate; the woman handling the peace talks with the Palestinians. Languages are not erased and other people's traumas are not swept under the rug on command. Livnat must be told: Arabic will not be erased from the mouths of its speakers, and Livni must be told: The nakba will not be erased from the memories of its victims. In fact, in Livni's language, one could add: Only when Israel remembers the nakba, will peace reign.

Our two new Goldas were exposed just when it seems a revolution might be in the works. Livni's very good chance of inheriting Ehud Olmert's seat soon created a certain hope, not only for her impressive appearance and her apparently moderate positions, but also, of course, because she is a woman. Not a general, despite serving in the Mossad, she has no constant need to prove her masculinity. The public also has high expectations of Livni, according to the polls. Shaul Mofaz asked, "What has she done anyway? Met with a few foreign ministers?" He implied Livni is not responsible for the deaths of Arabs, like he is. Livni spoke up, noting he was responsible for killing - and in his eyes that is more important. When Mofaz and his ilk speak of "deeds" and "performance," they always mean only on the battlefield, the only plays they really know. The time has come to get rid of all the Mofazes.

Feminine character is different, as are women's formative experiences. It was therefore reasonable to hope that the women who broke through the masculine hegemony in Israel would bear new tidings. In practice, those women who do manage to break the hegemony march to the male drummer and fit themselves into the men's value system. Ever since Golda was called "the only man in the cabinet" and on through the tough women CEOs, the daring women pilots and the army's women combat instructors, most successful women do not really break the masculine ethos, but act according to its code. Men continue to dictate, even when women somehow work their way to the top.

A moment before we may again have a woman premier, Livni must be told: Take back your miserable comment. Prove to us you can announce real change. Don't be - heaven forbid - the only man in the cabinet. Be the first real woman to head it. It is important for politics, important for peace and important for chauvinist Israeli society.