When Tzipi Livni addressed the crowd of mostly young people gathered for the opening plenary of the fourth annual J Street Conference, she did so as a mother and a daughter.
Livni, Israel’s minister of justice and chief negotiator in the current peace talks with the Palestinians, explained that she went into politics to leave her two sons and their friends a secure state. She wanted them to live in peace.
Her sons are currently soldiers in the IDF.
“For some, it looks like a dream. But history was never made by cynics. It is made by realists who are not afraid to dream.”
We can have differences of opinions, she said, although this was a group that did not need permission to voice an opinion that may run counter to the mainstream. But, she emphasized, the one thing we cannot, must not, have differing opinions on is the IDF, our soldiers.
“You should not accept a conversation that compares terrorists who kill children in school and an Israeli soldier.”
She continued, “I know the Israeli soldiers will do everything possible in order to avoid civilian casualties. I know this because they are my sons and their friends.”
And then she looked around the room, at the audience of mostly young people, who, if they lived in Israel, would be fighting along side Livni’s sons and their friends and said, “Our soldiers are acting with the same values as everyone in this room.”
It was as if the mother were fighting alongside her sons, fighting for peace from her side of the negotiating table.
I cannot imagine, nor would I presume to imagine, her fear, her worry, her frustration. But I could clearly feel her passion, her strength, her courage.
“I come here today to say in a clear voice: ‘Yes, we can love Israel and at the same time fight for peace.’ ”
I write all of this, not as some sort of political statement. I write this as a mother listening to another.
And then Livni spoke as a daughter, “I do not accept that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
She was responding to words that had just been spoken by Dror Moreh, director of the film The Gatekeepers.
Livni’s parents were freedom fighters. They met while both robbing a German train. They fought fiercely to establish the state of Israel. Livni’s father did not live to see his daughter enter Israeli politics. And when she began speaking out about a two-state solution, she said she hoped her mother wasn’t listening to the radio.
Her mother called her. She told her daughter that what she was saying was hard for her to hear. That it was, in fact, painful to her. But then she said she is seeing too many young Israelis leaving Israel to go to the U.S. She said “we didn’t fight to establish Israel for the old guys — so do what you have to do. Make the decisions you think best.”
This is what the daughter of freedom fighters and the mother of IDF soldiers said to the crowd of mostly young Jewish Americans. “
We cannot afford stagnation because it is against our interest.” “This is not a favor to President Obama or Secretary Kerry or the Palestinians. This is our interest.”
“History was never made by cynics. It is made by realists who are not afraid to dream.”