LS: Roger Hagerty Column October 05, 2008

Israel is a nation with a population of approximately 7 million people living in area of 8,357 square miles (about the size of New Jersey). Its military forces number a standing force of 170,000 with several hundred thousand reservists. Israel does have nuclear weapons and one of the finest and most effective air forces in the world.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is very close to becoming Israel’s first female prime minister in 34 years, (Golda Meir was the last female prime minister) after winning a tight race for leadership of the ruling Kadima party.  Livni received a call from outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with congratulations after all three main Israeli TV channels announced poll results giving Livni 47 percent to 49 percent of the vote.

Born in Tel Aviv, Livni is the daughter of Eitan Livni (born in Poland) and Sara Rosenberg, both prominent former Irgun members. Tzipi Livni served as a lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces and worked for the Mossad intelligence agency for nearly two years during the 1980s, resigning in August 1983 to marry and finish her law studies.

It was rumored that she was a terrorist hunter for the Mossad, but recent findings suggest that Livni was a low-level agent. She was hired to live in a Paris apartment to maintain the appearance of a regular residential property. A graduate of Bar Ilan University’s Faculty of Law, she has 10 years experience as a practicing lawyer specializing in public and commercial law. Livni resides in Tel Aviv.

She is married to accountant Nafali Spitzer and has two children, Omri and Yuval. According to a childhood friend, Livni is a vegetarian. Livni speaks Hebrew, English and French.

Many observers have asked what impact would a Livni-led government have on war and peace issues? Many feel that Livni is driven by a sense of mission in terms of making peace with the Palestinians. She is a lawyer by training and she approaches things with a legal mind set. Her particular concern is that over time, Palestinian statehood has been taken for granted. The international community supports it, Palestinians expect it, several Israeli governments have endorsed the idea, and what Livni is concerned about is that when the Palestine state is created, logically, according to her argument, the right of return should be guaranteed to the Palestine state. But Palestinians cannot “return” to Israel, which Livni sees as very much a part of a demographic threat to the Jewish people.

After the March 2006 Knesset election, Livni was described as “the second most powerful politician in Israel.”  In 2007, she was included in the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Livni became the first Israeli cabinet minister to explicitly differentiate between Palestinian guerrilla attacks against Israeli military targets and terrorist attacks against civilians. In an interview on the U.S. television news show Nightline, Livni said:

“Somebody who is fighting against Israeli soldiers is an enemy and we will fight back, but I believe that this is not under the definition of terrorism, if the target is a soldier.”

Livni should be a breath of fresh air when she assumes her role as prime minister of Israel. Let’s hope she will be an effective leader and Israel and the rest of the world will benefit from her service.


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