Monday, September 22, 2008

Will Tsipi Livni be good for the Jews?

If she becomes Prime Minister, will the new leader of the Kadima party be good for the Jews? I specifically have in mind those Jews who were refugees from Arab countries and Iran.

Tsipi Livni's track record on this issue does not bode well. At the Annapolis conference in November 2007, as Israeli Foreign Minister, she made a fleeting mention of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, but conflated them with Jewish refugees from Europe. She did not stress that those from Arab countries had been resettled by Israel, only that they 'longed for Israel'. At the time this was at least an improvement on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He did not mention Jewish refugees at all, but empathised with 'Palestinian suffering'.

"I did not come here to argue whose cause is more just," Tsipi said."Our hands are extended in peace to the entire Arab world without exception," she continued, going on to ask Arab nations to relinquish the use of the 'Naqba' (The Disaster) in referring to Israel's birth.

"Palestinian refugees, wherever they may be," she said, "long for this nation-state ( a separate state of Palestine) just as all the Jewish refugees forced out of Europe and Arab countries longed for Israel."

What has been missing for some time is an explicit, public statement that Jews from Arab countries and Iran were victims of a monstrous injustice, proportionally bigger than that suffered by Arab refugees, and that they were resettled in Israel in a de facto exchange of populations.

This reticence is par for the course for Israel's policy-makers, for whom Jewish refugees remain something of a taboo. Jewish refugees have never been a central plank of foreign policy, in spite of the fact that two foreign ministers, Silvan Shalom and Shlomo Ben-Ami, originated from Arab countries. No prime minister has ever made clear and ringing pronouncements to the Anglo-Saxon media about Jewish refugees.

There are two possible reasons for this: first, they think that Jewish refugees are irrelevant to talks with the Palestinians. Second, they do not want to rock the boat by introducing a new element to the agenda and a possible hurdle in the way of peace.

Although Olmert's parting shot before leaving office was a leaked mention of Jewish refugees to the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee, there is little reason to think that things will change under Livni.

More's the pity.

1 comment:

Bjørn, Norway said...

Very interesting. I actually didn`t know about this. Thanks for blogging.