Monday, September 29, 2008

The Arab world’s first reactions to Tzipi Livni’s winning the Qadima Party’s election



1. The Arab and Palestinian media closely followed the internal elections of Qadima ( Israel 's ruling party) for party head. They covered Tzipi Livni's biography, statements and cultural heritage (usually in a one-sided and biased way).

2. Their approaches fluctuated between two poles:

i) To-the-point and sometimes even positive , noting the fact that a woman had been chosen to head Qadima, comparing her to Golda Meir, the only other woman who had ever been Israel 's prime minister. They said her political positions were pragmatic. Such reports also expressed the hope that she would advance the peace process with the Palestinians and were found occasionally in the Palestinian Egyptian and Jordanian media. ii) Open hostility , claiming that Tzipi Livni had been a Mossad “terrorist” and had learned right-wing prejudices at home. According to the claims made (and clearly expressed in cartoons), there was no difference between Livni and the other Israeli leaders. They also claimed that she would continue “the slaughter of the Palestinians” while paying lip service to peace.

3. The following are some of the first reactions in the Arab media:

The Palestinian Authority

4. Senior PA figures congratulated Tzipi Livni on her victory, saying they would cooperate with her in negotiating a peace arrangement:

i) Abu Mazen called her to congratulate her on her victory (Wafa News Agency, September 18). He said he would cooperate with whoever was chosen: “…It makes no difference to us. It is an internal Israeli matter” (Syrian News Agency, September 18).

ii) Saeb Erikat , head of PLO negotiation department, expressed hope that now “serious” negotiations would begin and that the Israeli voter “would vote in favor of dismantling the settlements and the separation fence.” He added that the elections were “an internal Israeli matter,” and expressed hope that the situation [in internal Israeli politics] would stabilize (Agence France Presse, September 18).

iii) Abu Alla' , chief Palestinian negotiator, congratulated Tzipi Livni on winning the Qadima elections. He said that she had been involved in the peace process all along and that he believed she would aspire to make progress in negotiations with the Palestinians (Reuters, September 18).

iv) Yasser Abd Rabbo said that in the past the Palestinian government had cooperated with previous Israeli governments, but that the situation with the current one was different. He said he hoped Livni would act and not just talk (Italian News Agency, September 18).

5. While Abu Mazen and senior PA figures congratulated Tzipi Livni, on September 22 Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda published a cartoon portraying her as a murderess and enemy of peace. The paper belongs to the PA and is its semi-official organ, and it was not the first time it had published anti-Israeli propaganda and incitement.
Tzipi Livni as the Mona Lisa
Tzipi Livni as the Mona Lisa, holding a bloody knife. The dove of peace is about to be hanged, and the key symbolizing the Palestinian “right to return” is firmly attached to a chain. In the background there is a jail with guard towers. The use of the Mona Lisa, with her enigmatic smile, may be a way of saying that Tzipi Livni is herself an enigma as far as the Palestinians are concerned (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda website, September 22). The cartoon was also posted on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Qudsnet website.

6. As expected, Hamas did not relate seriously the Qadima elections, claiming there was no difference between Tzipi Livni and the other Israeli leaders. Ismail Haniya , head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, said that the Palestinian cause would not be influenced by the elections because all the Israeli leaders were united in their hostility to the Palestinian people and refused to recognize their rights, “including the right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of the refugees” (Ramattan News Agency, September 17). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that her election was “an continuation of the policies of suppression and aggression,” and noted that Hamas adhered to the “option of resistance” (i.e., terrorism) as a strategic choice (Palestine-info website, September 18).
From the website of Omaya Joha
“Olmert resigns and hands the job over to his successor:” The knife is inscribed “Palestinian slaughter” (From the website of Omaya Joha, a Hamas-affiliated Palestinian cartoonist popular among the Palestinians and in the Arab world, September 22).


7. The weekly column of Abdallah Hassan , editor-in-chief of the Middle East News Agency, was entitled “Israel in the Livni era and the difficult mission of establishing peace.””) He wrote that Livni's win signaled the end of the old generation of Israeli leaders and the beginning of a new generation, trying to what others had failed. World circumstances were changing rapidly, he said, and peace was Israel 's best alternative. Hassan raised the question of whether Livni would be able to make peace, unlike Golda Meir, whose policies led Israel to war in 1973 (Akhbar al-Youm, September 20, 2008).

8. Ahmed Abu Saleh wrote a column entitled “The second woman to rule Israel , Livni is an expert in taming men.” It stated that Livni's positions are often vague and unclear when it comes to negotiations with the Palestinians, and that was why she received so much support in the Arab world. However, recently the propaganda pressures during her political campaign had forced her to reveal her true positions, which were nothing more than Zionist-Israel ideology, which opposes giving up Jerusalem , returning to the 1967 borders and allowing the refugees to realize the “right to return.” In addition, the column called her the strongest woman in Israel , the woman of the hour who managed to get rid of Ehud Olmert and Shaul Mofaz (Al-Osboa, 1 September 20, 2008).
Al-Ahram, September 22, 2008
The signs read “Israel’s security” and “The first mission.” The Arab tells Tzipi Livni, “[Ruling party] Qadima, play a different tune.” The buildings at the left are labeled “settlements” (Al-Ahram, September 22, 2008).


9. Tzipi Livni's victory received relatively modest coverage in the Jordanian media. Reactions ranged from optimism and hope regarding a possible agreement with the Palestinians to pessimism resulting from Livni's character and the political situations in Israel , the PA and the Middle East in general.

10. No general consensus was reached in the talkbacks on Internet sites. Alongside personal attacks there were some supportive postings. Some talkbacks viewed the fact that a woman could become a leader in Israel as a sign of democracy and of Israel 's advantage over the Arab countries (“The day will come when every country will be ruled by a woman.”). Others were shocked (“Allah will cure the people whose leader is a woman…”).

11. There was no agreement among columnists regarding Tzipi Livni and her ability to make progress toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians:

i) Mazen Hamed wrote a column for Al-Dustour calling Tzipi Livni “a hard woman” who, as opposed to Hillary Clinton, did not regard the fact that she was a woman as justification for her election. At first meeting, he said, one is amazed by her sincerity and ability to keep her distance from others. In addition, the column continued, despite her limited political experience, it could not be denied that she supported Ariel Sharon to realize the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and provided Ehud Olmert with a political exit from the second Lebanon war (Al-Dustour, a semi-official daily, September 21, 2008).

ii) Saleh al-Qalab , representing the Jordanian establishment, wrote a column for Al-Ra'i called “ Whither Livni ?” rejecting those who mention her right-wing past. He noted that in the end, Yitzhak Rabin, who was a general and a hawk, became a dove and signed the Oslo Accords, and that Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and dismantled settlements once he saw it served Israeli interests. Tzipi Livni, he continued, was not in favor the Greater Israel concept but rather was more realistic and of the opinion that Israel had to be part of the Middle East , and that she should recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. It was wrong, he added, to generalize about Israelis because it was clear that the next prime minister would be one who knew that time was not on Israel 's side and that reality had to be faced and a historic compromise made (Al-Ra'i, September 22, 2008).

iii) Mahmoud Kaosh , writing for Al-Arab Al-Youm, noted that Tzipi Livni did not like the comparisons made between her and Golda Meir (the only other woman ever to serve as Israeli Prime Minister), because Meir was the daughter of a Ukrainian carpenter and a member of the Labor Party, while Livni's father was a member of “the Jewish terrorist gang led by Menachem Begin…” According to the column, Livni grew up in an atmosphere of hatred for Arabs and received terrorism along with her mother's milk.” Mahmoud Kaosh was of the opinion that no agreement would be reached in the near future and that the negotiations would be frozen because of the upcoming American presidential election and the political instability in both Israel and the PA (Al-Arab Al-Youm, September 22, 2008).


12. Establishment Syrian newspapers ( Tishrin, al-Thawra ), the regime's mouthpieces, gave distorted and biased biographies of Tzipi Livni, claiming in particular that as part of her Mossad career she had been involved in the assassinations of Palestinian leaders. Her past, her current statements and the legacy of her ancestors made the columnists pessimistic about the chance that she was willing to promote peace in the region.

13. Issam Dari , Tishrin's editor-in-chief, wrote a column entitled “ Tzipi , Israel 's new bird” [a play on words], which surveyed her biography and character, calling her “the Mossad's beauty queen” and “ Israel 's new princess,” a candidate for the Israeli prime minister club. He claimed that she had been discharged from the IDF as a lieutenant and had then gone to work for the Mossad. During her service there she was “gloriously successful” when she “went from one Arab capital to another to participate in assassinating ‘Arab terrorists.'” During the same period she served, claimed the column, as “a hunter of Palestinian leaders.” As far as the present was concerned, Livni had become the new “Iron Lady,” would have to make decisions affecting war and peace in the region (Tishrin, September 20, 2008).

14. Further on the column noted that “If the ‘Mossad Dove' wants to atone for her crimes and those of her family, and if she shows a genuine desire for peace, she will achieve peace. If not, then the region will continue in a state of war without peace, a state of tension and instability.” In addition, according to the column, Tzipi Livni knew well what “the requirements of peace” were, central to which was “the return of the occupied Arab lands to their owners.” The column ended on a pessimistic note regarding the possibility of Livni's denying the legacy of her parents and of deviating from the policies of former Israeli prime ministers.

15. Writing for Tishrin on September 24, Issam Dari again related to the environment in which Tzipi Livni grew up and her past with the Mossad. He asked, “can we expect anything good from someone who grew up in a family that murdered and assassinated and even did the same herself?” Dari claimed that Tzipi Livni's remarks during her term as foreign minister prove that “she has no inclination toward peace…” He ended the column by expressing his certainly that after she had formed the government “the truth, that Israel does not want peace, will be brought to light.”

16. Muhammad Ali Bouzha , writing for Al-Thawra, warned of an escalation in regional tension in view of the remarks made by Tzipi Livni on the eve of the election, in which she negated the “right to return” and said she would not negotiate over Jerusalem and the return of the Golan Heights . According to the column, the “three negatives” were not only election slogans but her commitment to the future, indicating that Israel was not interested in peace and would continue its aggressive policies. Thus the region was marching toward “another escalation” and a continuing crisis (Al-Thawra, September 18, 2008).


17. Mustafa Khazem , writing in Hezbollah's weekly Al-Intiqad, claimed that the implications of electing Tzipi Livni to the post of Israeli Prime Minister went beyond the policy of “an iron fist in a velvet glove.” According to the article, Livni would try to convince the world that “the good will win,” but the campaign against Israel was not between good and evil because Israel was “absolute evil. Livni, he claimed, was following in the footsteps of Golda Meir, from the Foreign Ministry to the office of Prime Minister, and he wondered if their fates would be the same, since Golda Meir was forced to leave office after the Yom Kippur war in 1973 (Al-Intiqad, September 19, 2008).

Saudi Arabia

Al-Watan, September 21, 2008
The Angel of Death exchanges on mask for another
(Al-Watan, September 21, 2008).


Al-Jarida , Kuwait , September 19, 2008
“Livni, Qadima's leader:” Tzipi Livni on skates, Ehud Olmert limping on crutches.
The sign reads “Qadima” ( Al-Jarida , Kuwait , September 19, 2008).

The Arab Emirates

Al-Biyan, the Emirates, September 19, 2008
“Six of one, half a dozen of the other:” Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert, two sides
of the same coin (Al-Biyan, the Emirates, September 19, 2008).

Al-Ra'i, Qatar , September 21, 2008
“Tzipi Livni, from the Mossad to the Prime Minister's office:” A masculine version
of Tzipi Livni holding a rifle (Al-Ra'i, Qatar , September 21, 2008).

Al-Ayyam , Yemen , September 21, 2008
“How the Arabs see Tzipi Livni after Golda Meir:” The cartoon's message is that the Arabs were blind regarding Golda Meir and are mistaken in their enthusiasm for Tzipi Livni ( Al-Ayyam , Yemen , September 21, 2008).

1 Al-Osboa is an independent Egyptian weekly which usually criticizes the regime.

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