Former Israeli opposition leader and immediate past Kadima head Tzipi Livni advocated for a two-state solution for Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state.
Former Israeli opposition leader and immediate past Kadima head Tzipi Livni told the Hadassah Centennial Convention on Thursday that the Israeli leadership must move forward towards a two-state solution if it wants Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state.
“Israel’s mission is to keep Israel a Jewish, democratic state, a secure state living in harmony with its neighbors in the ancient land of Israel,” Livni told the convention. “I believe that is Zionism.”
Livni, 54, who presented her credentials as the daughter of two pre-state Irgun “freedom fighters,” who had the map of Greater Israel inscribed on their graves, said that she believed in the right of Jews to live anywhere in the land of Israel, “but if we want to have a Jewish, democratic state we must make the decision to divide the land.”
Describing herself as “neither Left nor Right,” Livni said “the idea of the settlements was to prevent the division of the land. But today a vast majority of the Israeli public, including the prime minister, believes that the right thing to do to preserve Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people is to divide it into two states for two peoples.”
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Livni said that as long as the government failed to act to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, it was allowing the settlers – “a small minority of Israelis,” in her words – to define Israel’s borders. Settlement construction, which the international community rejects, was causing the world to delegitimize all of Israel, Livni said.
Declining to disclose her political intentions for Israel’s upcoming elections, Livni lamented that the issue of peace was not presently high on the public agenda. She cited official statistics published the day before saying that Jews were no longer the majority of the population “between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean” – namely, in the areas Israel controls. This supported her conviction that the land must be divided if Israel were to remain a Jewish state.
A very different vision was presented by legislator Arieh Eldad of the National Union party and a physician by profession, who was formerly a professor at Hadassah Medical School. Eldad, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Adumim with his wife, children and grandchildren, delivered a fierce rebuttal of Livni’s theory of the conflict.
“We misdiagnosed the roots of the conflict in the Middle East. We’re sure it is a territorial conflict between two nations over land. The cure for territorial conflict is division of the land. But we tried it 37 times and with each attempt more Jews were killed. This is not a territorial conflict, it is a local case of a clash of civilizations.”
Eldad described the conflict as a “bilateral religious war” between Judaism and Islam.
“We are not going to have peace,” he said. “You do not solve a religious war by drawing a line on the map and signing a contract. You can only reduce the level of the flames.”
Eldad said Israel should build “more and more settlements” and take as much land for itself as it could. His vision for the future included the possibility of endless war.
“We need to be strong forever,” he said. “I am a proud Jew and will live in my homeland no matter what it takes. If the price is to fight forever, we will fight forever.”
Retired Ambassador Yehuda Avner, 84, a former prime ministerial advisor and diplomat, maintained a diplomatic neutrality on the issues when he closed the session with reminiscences and lessons from his long career in the service of Israel.
Born in Manchester, England, Avner moved to Israel in 1947 “to fight the British” and help create an independent Jewish state. Thirty-six years later he became Israel’s ambassador to England.
“On that occasion, the Queen said to me it was the first time she had received credentials from an ambassador born in this country. I said ‘I was born in this country physically but in Jerusalem spiritually.’”
Avner related celebrating the declaration of Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948 with his comrades in a trench overlooking the village of Ein Karem – then a base for Arab snipers who were taking shots at his brigade, now the site of Hadassah Hospital.
Avner reflected that, in a sense, “the war of independence never ended. We still have a constant need for vigilant self-defense. Our alternatives are still: heroism or oblivion.”
He added that, having sent his children and grandchildren to the army, he is certainly weary from carrying the burden.
“But we have only one Jewish state. God forbid we should lose it and head into dark, uncharted territory.”
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Watch an interview with Tzipi Livni here>>