It’s a sign of how sharply the Overton Window has moved rightward over Israel-Palestine that Tzipi Livni’s speech to AIPAC felt like a breath of fresh air. Why? Because Livni didn’t need any cajoling to talk about the “Zionist vision of a secure, Jewish democratic state.” She emphasized the need for a peace agreement with “legitimate Palestinians.” And then she issued a fairly eloquent and emotional rebuke to the Greater Israel crowd by saying that while her parents — who have Betar & Irgun credentials — taught her that the Land of Israel extends beyond the Jordan River (I held my breath and bit my lip, I confess), they also taught her that Israel is and must always be democratic, and so the idea has to be abandoned. A two-state solution, she said, is the fulfillment of the Zionist ideal. “I learned from [my parents] the importance of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” Livni said, “I don’t want to have to choose between these two values.”
And with that, Livni stepped boldly into, I dunno, 1990. It’s a testament to the diminished hopes for peace and the rightward drift of Israeli politics that a center-right politician like Livni can sound bold simply by embracing a negotiated settlement. In the rest of her remarks, she compared Iran to a spoiled child, denounced the Goldstone report, said she was prepared to go to the U.K. to answer the charges against her for her role in the Gaza war as foreign minister, said the only way to deal with Hamas is through military force — and she sounds like a left-wing radical compared to Netanyahu and especially his coalition partners. The fact that Livni feels she has to rebuke the Zombified idea of Greater Israel is nothing short of depressing.
I expect that when Livni eventually becomes prime minister, the world — well, the world outside Gaza — is going to breathe a sigh of relief, and then be surprised to learn that actually Livni is in the mainstream of a rightward drift in Israeli politics. She portrayed herself as the center, saying that she rejects Greater Israel, but also rejected her “friends from the leftwing, who came to my place wearing their best t-shirts and jeans, with a glass of wine” — big laughs — after Oslo to tell her about the “New Middle East.” But at least she said that the lesson of Oslo to her is that a comprehensive peace and not an incremental one is the way forward.