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95 Foreign Aff. 10 (2016)
Anger and Hope: A Conversation With Tzipi Livni

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Anger and Hope

A Conversation With
Tzipi Livni
T zipi 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 speaks 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 interna-

This interview has been edited and condensed.

tional isolation, and the current govern-
ment 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 that what
is happening is completely against our
understanding of what Israel is, what
its values are, what Judaism is, what
democracy is.

Is Israeli democracy in decline?
We are fighting to keep Israel a
democracy-not just in terms of its
electoral system but also in terms of its
values. A lot of those on the other side
see democracy only as a question of who
is the majority. This is why they are trying
to weaken the role of the Supreme Court.
And this is why Netanyahu wants to
control the press.
   In a democracy, you need to have a
strong judicial system. You need free-
dom of speech, you need art, and you
need a free press. And all these things
are under threat right now. We in the
opposition need to fight for these values.
We need to push the idea that democ-
racy is a matter of values, and not just
the rule of the majority.


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