Tzipi Livni

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Tzipi Livni
Tzipi Livni May 2014 (cropped).jpg
Date of birth (1958-07-08) 8 July 1958 (age 56)
Place of birth Tel Aviv, Israel
Knessets 15, 16, 17, 18, 19
Party represented in Knesset
1999–2005 Likud
2005–2012 Kadima
2013– Hatnuah
Ministerial roles
2001 Minister of Regional Co-operation
2001–2002 Minister without Portfolio
2002–2003 Minister of Agriculture
2003–2006 Minister of Immigrant Absorption
2004–2005 Minister of Housing & Construction
2006–2007 Minister of Justice
2006–2009 Minister of Foreign Affairs
2013– Minister of Justice
Other roles
2009–2012 Leader of the Opposition
U.S. Vice president Dick Cheney meets with Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni at the White House.
Livni with Palestinian National Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad at the World Economic Forum in Davos, 2008

Tziporah Malkah "Tzipi" Livni (Hebrew: ציפורה מלכה "ציפי" לבני‎, pronounced [tsipoˈʁa malˈka ˈtsipi ˈlivni]; born 8 July 1958) is an Israeli politician who currently serves as Minister of Justice of Israel. She previously served as a minister in the Israeli cabinet from 2001 to 2009, most notably serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009. Following her failure to form a government after the 2009 Israeli elections, she served as Israeli Opposition Leader from 2009 to 2012[1][2][3] and leader of Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset.

Raised an ardent nationalist, Livni has become one of her nation's leading voices for the two-state solution.[4] In Israel she has earned a reputation as an honest politician who sticks to her principles.[5][6][7][8][9] In 2011 Livni was named one of "150 Women Who Shake the World" by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.[10]

Since 18 March 2013 she has served as the Israeli Minister of Justice under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as leader of the liberal Hatnuah party, which won 6 seats in the January 2013 Israeli elections. She is also charged with overseeing the country's diplomatic initiatives and peace talks with the Palestinians.

Early life[edit]

Born in Tel Aviv,[11] Livni is the daughter of Eitan Livni (born in Poland) and Sara (Rosenberg), both prominent former Irgun members.[12] After Israel's independence, Eitan and Sarah Livni became the first couple to marry in the new state.[13] Her father served as the chief operations officer of the Irgun.

As a child, Livni was a member of the Betar youth movement and played basketball for Elitzur Tel Aviv.[14] Growing up in an Israel dominated by the Labor Party, Livni says she felt marginalized, believing that the establishment had minimized her parents’ contribution to Israel’s founding.[15] Despite the hard-line image of the Irgun, she says her parents “were freedom fighters, not terrorists," and that they “respected the Arabs.”[15] According to Livni, her parents acted only against the British army, and not civilians.[16] During the 1984 Likud primaries, her father, who had served in the Knesset for Herut and Likud, did not campaign for a seat in the Knesset, and urged party members to support a Druze candidate instead because he thought it important for Likud to have Arab representation.[15]

Military service[edit]

Tzipi Livni served as a lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).[17] According to an interview in Yediot Aharonot, described in The Sunday Times, she served in the elite Mossad unit responsible for Operation Wrath of God (also known as Bayonet) in the 1980s.[18] She resigned from the IDF in August 1983 to marry and finish her law studies.[19]

Education, family, early career[edit]

A graduate of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Law, she has practiced public and commercial law for 10 years.[20] Livni resides in Tel Aviv. She is married to advertising executive Naftali Spitzer, and the couple have two children, Omri and Yuval. Livni has been a vegetarian since the age of 12.[21] Besides her native language, Hebrew, Livni also speaks English and fluent French (having lived in Paris for a number of years).[20]

Early political and public career[edit]

Livni entered politics in 1996 when she tried unsuccessfully to win a spot on Likud's list to the Knesset. She was appointed as head of the government-owned corporations authority in Netanyahu's government, and oversaw the privatization of a number of companies. While in this capacity, in 1998 she was considered a prominent candidate to become director general of the Finance Ministry."[14]

Livni would later rue the decision to privatize certain companies and natural resources. As chairwoman of Hatnuah in 2013, she wrote, "I am not sure that today I would once again privatize Israel Chemicals and the natural resources at the Dead Sea."[22]

Cabinet minister[edit]

Livni was first elected to the Knesset as a member of the Likud party in 1999. When Likud leader Ariel Sharon became prime minister in July 2001, Livni was appointed Minister of Regional Co-operation, and thereafter held various Cabinet positions including Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Minister of Housing and Construction.[23] She received the Abirat Ha-Shilton ("Quality of Governance") award for 2004. On 1 October 2005, she was appointed Minister of Justice after several months acting in that position.[24]

In Sharon's Cabinet, Livni was an avid supporter of the prime minister's disengagement plan, and was generally considered to be among the key dovish or moderate members of the Likud party. She often mediated between various elements inside the party, and made efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including successful efforts to have the pullout from the Gaza Strip ratified by the Knesset. On 12 November 2005, she spoke at the official annual commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination.[25]

Joining Kadima[edit]

On 20 November 2005, Livni followed Sharon and Ehud Olmert into the new Kadima Party. Ahead of the 28 March elections, Livni was appointed to be the new Foreign Minister, while continuing to serve as Justice Minister, as a result of the mass resignation of Likud Party members from the government.[26]

Grad rocket fired from Gaza hits the city of Beersheba and destroys a kindergarten classroom. Tzipi Livni visits the site.

In the selection of candidates for the March 2006 Knesset election, Livni was awarded the number three position on Kadima's list of candidates, which effectively guaranteed her election to the Knesset.[27]

Deputy prime minister[edit]

On 4 May 2006, with the swearing-in of the 31st Government, Livni became Vice (or Deputy) Prime Minister and retained the position of Foreign Minister. She ceased serving as Justice Minister at that time, but again held that position from 29 November 2006 to 7 February 2007, while still serving in her primary role of Foreign Minister.[27]

After the March 2006 Knesset election, Livni was described as "the second most powerful politician in Israel".[28] Livni is the second woman in Israel to hold the post of foreign minister, after Golda Meir. In 2007, she was included in the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World.[29] Forbes ranked her the 40th most powerful woman in the world in 2006,[30] 39th in 2007,[31] and 52nd in 2008.[32]

Livni became the first Israeli cabinet minister to explicitly differentiate Palestinian guerrilla attacks against Israeli military targets from terrorist attacks against civilians. In an interview on the US television news show Nightline, recorded on 28 March 2006, Livni stated, "Somebody who is fighting against Israeli soldiers is an enemy and we will fight back, but I believe that this is not under the definition of terrorism, if the target is a soldier."[33]

In 2007, she met with Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to discuss "improving the lives of the Palestinian people, without compromising Israel's security."[34]

On 2 May 2007, Livni called for Olmert's resignation in the wake of the publication of the Winograd Commission's interim report. She offered herself as leader of Kadima if Olmert decided to step down, and asserted her confidence in her ability to defeat him in a party election should he decline.[35][36] However, her call was ignored by Olmert and her decision to stay in the Cabinet sparked some controversy.[37]

As foreign minister, Livni won the admiration of European colleagues, who cite her lawyerly logic and pragmatism.[8][38]

In 2008, Livni condemned a photomontage of Pope Benedict XVI with a swastika displayed on his chest, which was published on a website run by supporters of her Kadima party.[39]

Kadima leadership and prime minister-designation[edit]

In the Kadima leadership election held on 17 September 2008, Olmert decided not to stand for re-election as party leader, and stated he would resign as prime minister following the election. Livni and Shaul Mofaz emerged as the main rivals for the leadership.[40] Livni won the Kadima leadership election by a margin of just 431 votes (1%).[41][42] Palestinian peace negotiators were reportedly pleased with the result.[43]

Upon declaring victory in the leadership election, Livni said the "national responsibility (bestowed) by the public brings me to approach this job with great reverence."[44]

On 21 September 2008, Olmert, who was facing several criminal investigations, formally resigned his office in a letter submitted to president Shimon Peres, and the following day Peres formally asked Livni to form a new government.[45][46] Livni faced tough negotiations with Kadima's coalition partners, particularly the Shas party, which had set conditions for joining a Livni government.[47][48][49] Likud, the main opposition party, lobbied Shas and other parties seeking to bring about that result.[50]

2009 elections[edit]

Livni at "Thank you" party for Kadima volunteers, February 2009.

In February 2009 Israel held elections for the national parliament, the Knesset. Livni, foreign minister and head of the Kadima party, campaigned against Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party to lead the new government. While election results gave Kadima the most seats in the Knesset, parties to the right in Israel's political spectrum gained enough seats that a coalition government under Kadima leadership was unlikely. As a result, Israeli president Shimon Peres asked Netanyahu and Likud (which received one fewer seat than Kadima in the elections) to form a government; this is the first time in Israel's history that the party with the most seats was not asked to attempt to form a government.[51]

The New York Times commended Livni for "refusing the extortionist conditions set by Shas," and endorsed her candidacy for prime minister, saying Israelis would have "a clear choice in February between a leader who has the courage to abandon tired old thinking on politics and security and one who has not."[52] Although it expressed some doubts, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz also endorsed Livni for prime minister.[53]

Livni at "Youths for Tzipi Livni" party, February 2009.

When Livni was tapped to form the next governing coalition, Palestinian political analyst Mahdi Abdel Hadi said that Livni has been received warmly in the Gulf, and that she is the leader most Arabs want to see as Israel's next prime minister.[54] During the 2009 general elections, Arab media depicted her very negatively but as the lesser of the evils.[55][56][57]

Opposition leader[edit]

After an internal Foreign Ministry document stated that some European Union countries were considering freezing a planned upgrade in relations with Israel, Livni, as opposition leader, wrote in the message addressed to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the EU's external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and the EU's current council president, Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg: "You all know my commitment to peace between Israel and its neighbors and to the two-state solution, a commitment shared with the majority of the Israeli public. I believe that this kind of attitude, one which directly links an upgrade in relations with regional diplomatic progress, is overlooking the substantial gains that the upgrade could provide both to the people of Israel and the people of Europe."[58]

On 25 May 2009, Livni told Harvard University students: "On the Iranian issue, there is no opposition or coalition in Israel."[59]

Prior to Lebanon's 2009 general elections (and its inclusion of Hezbollah), Livni "acknowledged an important principle" from U.S. President Barack Obama's then-recent speech in Cairo that “Elections alone do not make true democracy.” She explained her position in a New York Times op-ed by alluding to her experience as Israel's justice minister when Hamas participated in Palestinian elections in 2006: "At the time, the counterargument was that the very participation in elections would act as a moderating force on extremist groups. With more accountability, such groups would be tempted to abandon their militant approach in favor of a purely political platform. But this analysis ignored the possibility that some radical groups sought participation in the democratic process not to forsake their violent agenda but to advance it." Livni advocated that "the international community must adopt at the global level what true democracies apply at the national one -— a universal code for participation in democratic elections. This would include requiring every party running for office to renounce violence, pursue its aims by peaceful means and commit to binding laws and international agreements." She added that "The intent here is not to stifle disagreement, exclude key actors from the political process or suggest that democracy be uniform and disregard local cultures and values."[60]

Livni voiced support for Israel's gay community ahead of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June 2009. She addressed an event held at the gay community's municipal center in Tel Aviv's Meir Park.[61][62] After a 1 August 2009 attack on a gay youth center that left two people dead and 15 wounded in Tel Aviv, Livni, who is in contact with the gay and lesbian community, said "This event should shake up society, and all the circles inherent in it, including the political establishment and the education system, and on this day deliver an unequivocal message against intolerance, incitement and violence, and to act against any manifestation of these." She attended a rally near the location of the attack, along with hundreds of Israelis and some other politicians, and urged Israel's gay and lesbian community to continue living their lives, despite the "hate crime."[63]

Livni opposed Netanyahu's land reform bill.[64]

On 8 October 2009, Livni was honored by Yale University as a Chubb Fellow for her work and the inspiration spurred by her activities. She is the third Israeli leader to receive this honor after Shimon Peres and Moshe Dayan. The list also includes former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Livni referred to the Goldstone Report accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, and said there was a huge ethical gap between those seeking to murder children in their homes and those unintentionally harming civilians used by terrorists as human shields. Referring to the Israeli shelling of several UN schools in Gaza where thousands of civilians were taking shelter during the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Livni insisted that she "regret(s) every civilian casualty, but what happened at the UN school was not a mistake."[65][66] Addressing the peace process, Livni said Israel is not involved in it as a favor to anyone, but that it is in the interest of all parties. At her next stop in Miami, Livni became the first Israeli woman to receive the International Hall of Fame Award from the International Women's Forum.[67][68]

As opposition leader, Livni noted in a 2009 Knesset speech that she herself did not support Yitzhak Rabin's policies at the time. "The dispute is around the question of whether you can have it both ways -– maintaining Israel as a Jewish state and keeping the entire Land of Israel," she said.[69] Political analysts see Livni's speech at the 2003 commemoration rally for Rabin as a turning point in her political career when she became more popular among the Israeli peace camp. She delivered a speech which many found deeply moving in which she said the day Rabin was murdered was "the day that the skies fell down on me because of what happened to us, to all the citizens of Israel." As foreign minister, Livni would again attend the memorial for Rabin in 2009. Labor Party officials were not keen on this idea, fearing that her appearance would cost them votes. Some Kadima officials also seemed reluctant, fearing her appearance at left-wing event would send some votes Likud's way.[70] Livni attended the memorial for Rabin in 2009.[71]

After a draft document authored by Sweden (the then-holder of the rotating EU presidency) surfaced that calls officially for a division of Jerusalem and implies that the EU would also recognize a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, Livni wrote a letter to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, saying it was "wrong and not helpful," and that she conveyed "deep concern regarding what appears to be an attempt to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for final status negotiations." European efforts to "dictate for either party the nature of the outcome on the status of Jerusalem," she said, would only serve to endanger the fulfillment of "our shared vision of two states for two peoples into a reality."[72] Livni also called on France to speak up against the draft during her meeting with Sarkozy in Paris.[73]

In December 2009, Livni travelled to Paris and met with French president Nicolas Sarkozy. "Time is against us," she told reporters following talks at the Elysee Palace that also touched on Iran. "We discussed the need to re-launch the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and I believe that this is part of Israel's interest to relaunch the negotiations from the point at which we stopped basically a year ago."[74]

Criticism[edit]

During the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Livni was criticized by Arab League Chairman Amre Moussa as, "I am greatly surprised by, and I reject, the words of the Israeli foreign minister (Livni), who asks: 'Is there a humanitarian crisis? There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.' "[75] Livni was quoted as saying "Israel has been supplying comprehensive humanitarian aid to the Strip... and has even been stepping this up by the day."[76] Israel would later allow a daily three-hour truce during the offensive to enable aid to flow through a humanitarian corridor.[77]

Livni declared that the 2009 Gaza military offensive had "restored Israel's deterrence... Hamas now understands that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing."[78]

UK arrest warrant[edit]

In December 2009, a warrant for Livni's arrest was understood to have been issued by a London court at the weekend, following an application by lawyers acting for some of the Palestinian victims of Operation Cast Lead, focused on Livni's role in Israel's war against Hamas-run Gaza at the turn of the year. It was withdrawn after she cancelled her visit. For several years, Palestinian activists have made largely unsuccessful attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in European courts under the universal jurisdiction system.[79] The warrant was issued on 12 December and revoked on 14 December 2009, after it was revealed that Livni had not entered British territory.[80] Israeli government experts on international law have advised cabinet ministers with a security background and senior IDF officers not to visit Britain, Spain, Belgium or Norway, because in these countries they risk being arrested on charges of alleged war crimes through “universal jurisdiction” laws.[81] The warrant was later denounced as "cynical" by the Israeli foreign ministry.[82]

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband contacted Livni and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman to formally explain the incident on behalf of the British government.[83] Secretary Miliband had expressed concern at the situation and said officials were looking "urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again". Judges in the United Kingdom can issue arrest warrants for war crimes suspects around the world under the Geneva Convention Act 1957, without any requirement to consult public prosecutors -— something Miliband said was "unusual". Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis, also Jewish and former Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said Wednesday that Britain was "absolutely determined to make sure that this can never happen again". "Because Israel is a strategic partner and close friend of the UK, it is absolutely essential representatives of the state of Israel can visit Britain freely to talk about the Middle East peace process," he told the BBC.[84] J Street applauded Miliband's rejection of the warrant and "his promise to pursue a change in the law that would prevent unfortunate events like these from happening in the future."[85]

Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed his regret over the warrant and broke off from climate talks in Copenhagen to call Livni and reassure her that she was "most welcome in Britain any time." According to a statement released by Livni's office, Brown also promised to seek legislative changes to ensure no Israeli official would risk arrest while on British soil. Livni replied by saying: "The situation must be repaired immediately."[86]

Yehuda Blum, Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations and a professor of law at Hebrew University of Jerusalem commented: "The abuse and misuse of this concept of universal jurisdiction should be discontinued." Blum said the law was intended for use in cases with no clear jurisdiction, such as piracy in international waters, and should not be expanded for political aims. Israeli officials, acting under orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the British ambassador they expect quick action to change the law. In London, chagrined British officials said they were seeking solutions.[87]

Livni called the arrest warrant "an abuse of the British legal system".[88] At a security conference in Israel, Livni did not directly address the arrest warrant but defended Israel's conduct during Operation Cast Lead, saying she "would make the same decisions all over again". "When the state of Israel has to do the right thing, it has to be done – condemnation or no condemnation, statements or no statements, arrest warrants or no arrest warrants... This is the role of leadership, and as far as I’m concerned I would repeat each and every decision."

Defeat[edit]

In November 2011, the three candidates opposed to Tzipi Livni in 2008 called for a primary to be held as soon as possible, citing the probability of Knesset elections soon. On 19 January 2012, Livni set the primary date for 27 March 2012. Livni lost by a wide margin (64.5% to her 35.5%) to challenger and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz. In May 2012 Livni resigned from the Knesset.[89]

New party[edit]

On 27 November 2012, she announced the establishment of a new party, called Hatnuah ("The Movement").[90][91] She was joined by seven members of Knesset from the Kadima Party: Yoel Hasson, Robert Tiviaev, Majalli Wahabi, Orit Zuaretz, Rachel Adato, Shlomo Molla and Meir Sheetrit.[91] Former Labor leaders Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz also joined the party.

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External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Ehud Olmert
Chairman of Kadima
2008–2012
Succeeded by
Shaul Mofaz