‘The best prime minister Israel never had’

Tzipi Livni. Photo: Peter Haskin

TZIPI Livni said she wished anti-Israel protesters outside Moriah College last Wednesday night were inside so she could explain to them how the IDF does its best to minimise civilian casualties.

Drawing a comparison with Hamas while delivering the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC)-Gandel Oration, the former Israeli foreign minister spoke of how the terror group attacks Israeli kindergartens while using Palestinian civilians as human shields.

With protesters labelling her a “war criminal”, Livni – one of the most pro-peace Israeli politicians of modern times – also said she was proud of the actions she took in government to protect Israel and defend its citizens.

Speaking in Melbourne two nights earlier, she recounted how her parents Eitan Livni and Sara Rosenberg wed shortly after Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, before fighting in the war.

Her Irgun parents had previously been arrested for robbing a British train for arms, but her father had escaped from Acre prison in 1947 and her mother had jumped to freedom from her second-floor hospital window.

“This was my childhood,” reflected Livni, who heard these anecdotes at a young age and was raised to be strong “in a tough neighbourhood”.

She said on principle her parents never attacked Arab civilians. But they held firm views about Greater Israel, and her mother later disagreed with her when she called for compromises with the Palestinians.

However, Livni said, “Our responsibility is to guard this wonderful present that our parents fought for … this is not for the sake of our parents, this is for the sake of our children.”

The world sees Israel “through the lens of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict”, she lamented, calling for a two-state solution, even if Israel has to cede “isolated” settlements.

A deal with the Palestinians would mean Israel could preserve both its Jewish majority and its democracy – a foundational value.

“Any agreement should be an end of conflict and an end of claim … I’m not talking about marrying the Palestinians, but divorcing them,” she said.

An accord could encourage moderate Arab states into defence ties with Israel against their common foe Iran, and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas.

Introduced by philanthropist John Gandel as “the best prime minister Israel never had”, the former vice-PM began in Likud but formed Kadima with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert in 2005, winning the most seats in 2009, when she almost became PM, but Likud formed government. In 2012, Livni founded Hatnuah, becoming justice minister the following year.

The Sydney event was also hosted by JNF Australia.

PETER KOHN