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Israeli Opposition Leader Tells AIPAC of ‘Fight … for a Jewish Democratic State’

“I didn’t come here to speak with you as the head of the opposition in Israel,” said Tzipi Livni, leader of Kadima, to the AIPAC annual conference. “It’s not the time and the place” to draw distinctions between herself and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she added to applause. And then she very gently drew some.

While Livni said she was “so frustrated and angry for the fact that Israel is being seen through the distorted lenses of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she echoed a call made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this morning about the need “to reach and agreement that ends the conflict and keeps the Israeli interest.” Livni articulated the “Zionist vision of a secure, Jewish democratic state in the Land of Israel and the promise that is part of the declaration of independence.” She called that struggle second only to the “fight for the existence of the state of Israel.”

We’ll see if Netanyahu echoes those priorities. Livni said a lot that Israelis across the political spectrum can embrace issues such as the need to preserve Israel’s international standing and to stop Iran’s nuclear program. But Livni drew some subtle distinctions as well. She got applause for saying the world shouldn’t view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the crucial problem of the Middle East, because ”Iran is the problem as well.” Expect Netanyahu to chop off that “as well” when he speaks tonight.

(On Iran, Livni drew furious laughter by saying the world ought to tell the Iranian government, “Stay in your room until you learn to behave.”)

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