Livni: Trump presidency an ‘opportunity’ for Israel
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'If Israel can really do whatever it wants, it's time that Israel decide what it wants'

Livni: Trump presidency an ‘opportunity’ for Israel

Ex-foreign minister says Jerusalem can no longer paint White House as 'bad cop,' claims government has 'no policy' on Gaza

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni addresses the INSS conference on January 24, 2017 (Chen Galili/Courtesy)
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni addresses the INSS conference on January 24, 2017 (Chen Galili/Courtesy)

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni on Tuesday said she views Donald Trump’s presidency as an “opportunity” for Israel, as it will force the Israeli government to formulate its policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians rather than painting Washington as the “bad cop” forcing its hand.

Speaking at the annual INSS conference, the former justice and foreign minister, who served in the high-level security cabinet during the 2014 Gaza war, also said Israel has no coherent policy in the Strip, and called for the release of a damning state comptroller report on the 50-day conflict.

“I’m going to surprise you, because I also see an opportunity, even a big opportunity” with Trump in office, she said.

Livni’s comments came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump for ushering in a “change of approach” in the White House after eight years of “enormous pressure” from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Netanyahu and Trump spoke on the phone on Sunday evening, and the two are set to meet in Washington early next month, though a final date has yet to be set.

With Trump seemingly giving Israel more leeway, the Netanyahu government will have to lay down its positions, said Livni.

“If Israel can really do whatever it wants — it’s time that Israel decide what it wants,” she said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump meeting at Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump meeting at Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The government will no longer be able to portray the White House as the “bad cop” coercing decisions opposed by its right-wing base, said Livni. “There is no one left in the government or in Washington to blame.”

The former peace negotiator also urged Netanyahu to drum up support in the Trump administration in Washington next month for the “important strategic” issues that would arise during peace talks, such as retaining the settlement blocs and blocking the Palestinian right of return.

Also during her speech, which came as a Knesset state control subcommittee was set to debate whether to release the full report on the Gaza war, Livni said she supported a full declassification, as the public had the right to know of the government’s failures.

“The problem with Operation Protective Edge was larger than the tunnels,” she said, referring to the cross-border passages used by Hamas fighters during the war to attack IDF soldiers, which were reportedly a major focus of the report. “Israel has no policy vis-a-vis Gaza and the IDF is desperate for one.”

The army came to the security cabinet during the war and demanded the government lay out a broader strategy on Gaza, she said. But “we are working with micro-tactics, extinguishing fires one after the other.”

A tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israel, seen in a picture released by the IDF on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israel, seen in a picture released by the IDF on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The revised draft of State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s report intensifies its criticism of Netanyahu and then-former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon while toning down its disapproval of the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces, according to leaks to Israeli media.

Shapira’s report found that despite Netanyahu’s claims to the contrary, the prime minister and Ya’alon did not properly inform the high-level security cabinet of the extent of the tunnel threat, Channel 2 reported in November. The cabinet was only notified of the dangers one week before the start of the war, after then-economy minister Naftali Bennett presented the ministers with the information and offered possible solutions to disarm the underground network, the report said, according to Channel 2.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied that cabinet members were not apprised of the threats, but two of his chief political rivals, Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, both of whom were cabinet members during the war, have repeatedly claimed the forum was not properly updated on the issues.

Bennet, Lapid, and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on Monday called on the government to release the report.

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