Tal Cohen
Eitan Haber
Tal Cohen

Livni's charm is gone

Livni conveyed a sense of not being obsessed with power - until last week

Here's an unfamiliar story about Tzipi Livni's family that may even be insignificant: Her parents Sarah and Eitan were the first couple to marry in the State of Israel. If someone ever tries to write a story about the country's "firsts" – the first thief, the first immigrant, the first casualty – the Livni couple will be granted a special status of their own: They were the first to marry in the independent state and the first to marry during the "Count of the Omer," a time when marriage is prohibited according to Jewish religious law. 


Yet the marriage was performed with the consent of the chief rabbi at the time, Isser Unterman, who complied with the request of the groom's mother, who feared that she would not last to see her son alive. The person who opts to write Tzipi Livni's biography will certainly not miss this chapter in her family history.


Last week, when it seemed that an entire state was on it toes and biting its nails in anticipation of seeing and hearing what Tzipi Livni would decide, there were also many who asked: What’s the secret to this woman's power? She didn't cross enemy lines in the dead of night; she didn't come from the pre-state underground ranks; she didn't write astonishing books; she has no far-reaching messages; she didn't have and does not have a world view that Hassidic followers can adhere to and she doesn't have a unique vision with which to lead this tormented land.


So what on earth does she have that captures the hearts of average Israelis, that helped her gallop up the political ladder, to overtake senior decorated generals and politicians en route to 3 Kaplan Street in Jerusalem - the Prime Minister's Office?


She was credible

One, two or three years ago, while she was still the absorption minister I believe, I had the opportunity to hear her speaking at a parlor meeting in Tel Aviv. Instead of listening to her I observed the Tel Aviv crowd that had gathered there to eat petit fours and listen to a minister. The audience attentively listened to the boring statistics that flowed out of her mouth.


The room was silent. A sense of empathy for the speaker emanated from the Ashkenazi audience. It was then that I think I discovered her secret: Tzipi Livni, contrary to other politicians, looks and sounds as though she is not obsessive about becoming a prime minister.


She doesn't have that spark in her eye. She doesn't have a thunderous, fiery voice. She isn't impassioned. She doesn't hate, perhaps she doesn't even like and embrace. That evening at least, she didn't go out of her way, she didn't mislead the audience - she was credible.


Her voice, a politician's most important weapon, was easy-going. Her words carried no earth-shattering messages, not right not left, just middle ground. And this is exactly the point: She was just like a third year psychology student, like the girl next door, the type we'd like to take into our family.


And this is exactly the manner and exactly the character that made several Israeli prime ministers popular. For example: Levy Eshkol, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, who once said: "For me the premiership is an option, not an obsession."


What happened to her?

Contrary to these persons there were several politicians who were unpopular with the public because of that power-hungry spark in their eyes: For example, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.


"I'm not dying to become the prime minister" granted her, in my opinion, her special status despite her not possessing what the Winograd Commission views as a vital need: Experience. Thus far, Livni has conducted herself as though she were quoting from Dan Ben Amotz's bird story: "If they want they'll eat, if not they won't."


All this fell, collapsed and broke into smithereens last week. Livni, even if she were telling the truth or speaking in absolute innocence, was depicted as power-hungry, readying herself for battle, as someone with the spark for power radiating from her eyes.


Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference. That's what it sounded like, that's what it looks like on the Israeli street. What happened to her? Did she begin believing all that was said and written about her?


From that moment on her charm disappeared. Now Tzipi Livni is just like Netanyahu, Barak and the others. Will she bid her dream farewell?



פרסום ראשון: 05.06.07, 14:06
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