Tzipi Livni, the leader of the center-left Hatnua party, on Friday issued a scathing excoriation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud-Beytenu list, saying the PM’s policies posed a mortal threat to the Zionist endeavor.
“Netanyahu will be the demise of the Jewish state,” Livni told an assembly at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot. “The choice faced by Israeli citizens [in the upcoming elections] is between Zionism and extremism.”
Livni was referring to Netanyahu’s purported efforts to sabotage the prospects of a two-state solution with the Palestinians (publicly, he has endorsed it), the absence of which, many warn, will precipitate a single state where Jews will be in the minority.
Hatnua is running on a platform that emphasizes the urgent need to achieve a peace settlement with the Palestinians and pledges to vigorously pursue such a deal.
“Netanyahu and the extremists that surround him accuse me of collaborating with the enemy,” Livni, a former foreign minister, said. “I am just as aware as anyone else of the right of the Jewish people to the entirety of the land [of Israel], but, faced with a choice between Greater Israel and a Jewish state, I choose a Jewish state.”
In December, several members of Likud’s more hawkish flank, including a senior minister, claimed that Netanyahu’s avowal of support for a two-state solution during a defining policy speech at Bar-Ilan University in June 2009 was a ruse.
“Two states for two peoples was never part of [Likud's] election platform,” Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who’s in the third spot on the Likud-Beytenu joint slate, told Ynet, echoing a similar statement to that effect made by Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely.
Afterward, Netanyahu reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution, but reiterated an oft-cited list of three caveats: that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state; that they declare an end to the conflict; and finally, that any Palestinian state be demilitarized, with security arrangements meeting Israeli approval.
Netanyahu also stated categorically that he was opposed to any territorial compromise in East Jerusalem.
In December, Livni claimed that Likud-Beytenu refused to include the Bar-Ilan speech in its elections platform, and was instead using it as a “shield” that Netanyahu “waves all over the world so he can say that Israel yearns for peace.”