Israel’s most powerful woman politician, the former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, has called for a reworking of the dialogue between Israel and the diaspora.
Speaking on Sunday at Haaretz’s first London conference, Ms Livni said: “The old dialogue was Israel saying to world Jewry, ok, we are here for you as a safe and secure shelter in case of anti-Semitism. You are welcome to come, but you need to stand with us, no matter what, and not criticise us when the Israeli government policy is different from what you believe is the right policy or the right vision for the state of Israel.
“I want to say to world Jewry, Israel is your home, but not only from a technical point of view as a shelter in case of anti-Semitism. Israel is strong enough to hear criticism when it comes from within the family, and we are all one family. It’s about time that we will be together not just to be against our enemies, but because we have a shared vision”.
That vision, said the politician, was encapsulated in the words of the Declaration of Independence, of Israel as “a Jewish, democratic state”. But “what was obvious in 1948 is not obvious any more. When it comes to the concept of Israel as a Jewish nation-state I hear more and more questions as what that means”. Not only was there “a huge gap” between Israel’s sense of itself as the David in a region of Goliaths, and the world’s perception of Israel as the Goliath menacing the Palestinians David, but she believed there was “an erosion in Jewish communities in their understanding of what israel means.”
Her support for the two-state solution, Ms Livni said, was more to do with upholding Jewish democratic values than as “a favour” to the Palestinians or the international community. Jewish democratic values could not be maintained within the current arrangements.
Ms Livni declared bluntly: “New settlements don’t give Israel more security.. Settlements were part of a vision of Greater Israel. But they are not part of the Israeli vision these days. This is a minority vision. So what is the use of building new settlements, adding to them, or sending young people to live in them? We have blocs of settlements next to the Green Line, and it is clear to everybody who is negotiating, that we need to keep these blocs of settlements within Israel. But it is a huge mistake not to make a distinction between these blocs of settlements and the isolated settlements; and why should the Quartet [make such distinction] if Israel does not?
“Unfortunately, there are some who are using Israel’s security as an excuse to say no. But the answer is not to build settlements.”
And she warned: “Israel is becoming a new ghetto in the Middle East, isolated, thinking that the entire world is anti-Semitic, BDS, they hate us, we should stick together because they hate us — no. That is not the vision of Zionism.”
Ms Livni concluded her London visit with Foreign Office meetings including with the Middle East minister, Tobias Ellwood. She also spoke to Britain’s ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, who attended the London conference.