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Interview: Tzipi Livni

"End the blame game"

    Protesters against Tzipi Livni gathered in Downing Street last week
    Protesters against Tzipi Livni gathered in Downing Street last week

    Israeli Opposition leader Tzipi Livni was shocked that the anti-Israel campaigners on campus in Britain had intensified their campaign to lobby for a "one-state solution" to the conflict.

    Speaking to the JC during her brief visit to the UK last week she said: "What surprised me was not that there are those who are delegitimising Israel. It's not that people are pushing Israel to make decisions on annexation as they call it. It surprised me that they are calling for one state, a bi-national state. This is a change."

    Ms Livni met a group of students in London who warned her of the escalation of the one-state rhetoric. This new development, she felt put renewed pressure on Israel to find a solution - "the sooner the better for Netanhyahu to find a way to build trust with the Palestinians and the rest of the world."

    She said the "blame game" between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership needed to end.

    "Each leader is trying to convince the world and his own people of their own narrative. But the success of negotiations is not through convincing that one narrative is more just, but how we can make a future for our children."

    The Kadima leader said the peace process would not have stalled if her party had formed the government after the 2009 elections. "The idea was to continue the negotiations after the elections. And now there is a need to build trust in order to do so. But while we are waiting, Israel is losing. The perception of Israel is changing."

    On the wider issue of the Arab Spring she expressed her fears that radical elements would use the Israel-Palestinian conflict in forthcoming elections. She was concerned that Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood did not share universal democratic values.

    Within Israel itself Ms Livni felt politicians needed to take heed of the the tent-city demonstrations that brought thousands of people onto the streets to protest about price rises and housing.

    "They want change," she said. "They are fed up with all the politicians and basically they feel they are not being represented. It is not just an economic issue and the change should be dramatic change. I think that some changes here and there in taxes will not be enough. There is a need for dramatic change. "

    Could such a change start with Israel's proportional election system, which often gives the balance of power to fringe parties? "I think we need to change the system of elections in order to give less power to some sectors in Israeli society," she said.

    Ms Livni's visit was overshadowed by the attempt by Palestinian campaigners to have her arrested for war crimes allegedly committed during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. She remained unconvinced that the change to the law on universal jurisdiction had been effective.

    "It worked today, but it needs to be proved that it is not a personal issue," she said. "It worked today for my visit, a visit I wanted to make as a test case for the legislation. But we need now to make sure it works for everybody."

    Asked if she was happy that the coalition government has pushed through the law change, she concluded: "I really don't care what happens behind the scenes. I want to know that every Israeli leader and [military] officer can come and visit London."

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