An Israeli opposition leader this week said the country needs to “engage” with pro-boycott movements because “preaching to the converted is the easy option”.
During a flying visit to London this week, Tzipi Livni, who heads the Zionist Union together with Isaac Herzog, took part in a debate with proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, alongside Jewish students.
It comes after the National Union of Students voted to support the BDS campaign last month. “There is a huge gap between criticising a policy, or having a debate, or asking Israel questions, and boycotting and sanctioning Israel, which is basically collective punishment,” she said.
She also argued the world needs “a new discussion” about a two-state solution, saying: “Let’s find a way to move forward. Both leaders, [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] said two states for two people, so let them prove it.”
While in the UK, the prominent Israeli politician met Tobias Ellwood, Britain’s Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to present him with Israel’s report on last year’s Gaza conflict.
Anticipating criticism in a forthcoming UN report on the war, she said: “It is important that the correct picture of reality, factually, morally and legally, is presented to the British administration.”
Livni, an ex-Mossad agent who later served as foreign minister during the 2008-9 Gaza war, also conveyed Israel’s concerns about the agreement with Iran currently taking shape, in further meetings with Whitehall mandarins as well as Britain’s negotiator. “I’m here to say that the sanctions on Iran should stay,” she said.
“It’s a matter of when you stop compromising. It’s about what messages Israel, the Gulf states and Arab states needs to get from any agreement. It’s not only about nuclear weapons but also the involvement of Iran in supporting terror.”
Ahead of her visit, during which she spoke at the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit, Livni said she was briefed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Iranian talks, which are now at a crucial stage.
Livni is known for favouring a two-state solution with the Palestinians last year recently led negotiations facilitated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, but the two sides were unable to reach a deal.