With Tzipi Livni as Israel’s prime minister, America would probably be farther along the road to war with Iran. I caught her on television recently and she gave me the shivers. This is one cool, ruthless lady. Behind her Colgate smile and amiable demeanor, I sensed a resolve that should give Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pause. This lady is not about to let Iran develop a nuclear bomb – and she’s prepared to do what it takes to stop it.
“Iran needs to understand that the threat of military action exists and has not been taken off the table,” she said with that cheerful smile of hers. I could hear John McCain’s inane refrain echoing in the back roads of my memory, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”
And later I would hear a smiling hockey mom from Alaska tell ABC’s Charles Gibson, “Israel is our ally. We cannot second-guess Israel.” She kept saying it over and over as if she had been hypnotized. Gibson had asked Sarah Palin if she would go along with an Israeli attack on Iran, and her answer seemed to be an unqualified: “You betcha!”
Where do these women come from – these wives and mothers who do not flinch from the prospect of thousands of young men and women dying and many thousands more being maimed, of babies incinerated in their cradles and toddlers left legless and armless amid the rubble of war?
To look at Tzipi Livni (photo at left), I found it hard to believe that this 50-year-old lawyer – married and mother of two – was a former agent in the Mossad spy agency, a cool tactician who did not blink when the time came to stab Israeli Prime Minister Olmert in the back (not that Olmert didn’t deserve it!). She smiled as she told the TV interviewer that she “hoped diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program would prevail,” but her face grew more serious as she said “all options are on the table.” All options. To kill and be killed. To plunge Israelis and Americans into war. To use The Bomb? Israel has it, you know. So does America. And so does Iran’s close ally, Russia.
I wouldn’t describe Livni as a reckless adventurer. And she certainly is not a know-nothing like Sarah Palin. But she is oh-so-pragmatic. To people like her, war is just another tactic in the grand scheme of things. If a large part of the world is destroyed, they will take what’s left of it and go on from there.
Livni grew up in an “ultranationalist” family. Her father led the armed underground group Irgun in the 1940s that fought for an exclusively Jewish homeland in Palestine and opposed partitioning the territory with Arabs. But she has pragmatically endorsed withdrawal from some occupied Palestinian lands as a way to preserve Israel’s Jewish majority – and possibly reach a peace agreement with Palestine.
“I came to the painful realization that if I have to choose between a Greater Israel and Israel continuing to be a Jewish and democratic country, I must choose the latter,”she explained.
It looks as if Livni might have to move farther to the right to hold Israel’s coalition government together. One option is to get in bed with the Orthodox Shas Party, which adamantly opposes compromise with the Palestinians. But I am confident Livni will do whatever she needs to do to consolidate her power. That’s the way she is.
Yes, this Tzipi Livni is not one to let her heart rule her head. She does not blink. I shudder at the thought of what she would do to someone like Sarah Palin if the two were (God forbid) sitting across a negotiating table from each other. Or John McCain, for that matter.