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Anger and Hope

A Conversation With Tzipi Livni

Tzipi Livni

  • Country: Israel
  • Title: Former Foreign Minister

Tzipi Livni has been called the most powerful woman in Israel since Golda Meir. Born to a prominent right-wing family, Livni spent several years working for the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, before entering politics. In the decades since, she has held eight different cabinet posts—including minister of justice and minister of foreign affairs—and undergone a dramatic ideological evolution. First elected to the Knesset as a member of Likud, in 2005 she joined Kadima, a new centrist party founded by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. A staunch supporter of the peace process, Livni created her own party, Hatnua, in 2012 and then joined forces with Labor to form the Zionist Union before the 2015 election. Now a leading member of the opposition, Livni recently spoke to Foreign Affairs’ managing editor, Jonathan Tepperman, in Tel Aviv.

When you speak to Israelis today, you’re apt to hear one of two competing narratives. According to the first, things are better than ever: the economy is thriving, most of Israel’s enemies are in disarray, and the current government reflects the will of the people.

The other narrative is the complete opposite: the region is more dangerous than ever, Israel faces growing interna­tional isolation, and the current govern­ment is steadily reducing civil liberties and freedoms. What’s your version?

It’s very clear that here in Israel there are now not only two different states of mind but also two different views about what Israel needs and what Israel is. And your view of reality depends on which of these two views of Israel you hold.

Does that mean Israel is now more polarized than ever before?

Yes, yes. It started before the last election, but the election crystallized the idea—quoting Netanyahu—that there’s a gap between these two camps. He was right then. And the things that he and his government have done since then have made this gap grow wider. Those that are not in the government feel

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