Who is Israel's Sarah Palin?
By Moshe Phillips
With Alaska Governor Sarah Palin back in the headlines it is worth recalling that some pundits attempted to draw parallels between the then Republican Vice-Presidential nominee and former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the then newly minted female head of Israel's Kadima party. Those pundits were wrong.
On the surface, Palin and Livni did seem to have much in common. They are both active, thin, stylish, married women with children. Each entered politics in the 1990's and are only six years apart in age. Both were among the mere handful of women in their respective countries to rise to the highest echelons of political and government leadership. Both were running in national elections in 2008.
Livni started her political career in the Likud party, a party often inaccurately characterized as right wing. Livni is a pragmatist who, along with many other Likudniks, chose to defect to Kadima - a new party created by three of the foremost career political opportunists Israel has produced: Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres.
The differences between Livni and Palin are considerable. Among the profound differences is that Livni is not a social conservative. Witness that Livni spoke at a homosexual activist event held as part of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2009 at the park's homosexual Pride Center.
The myriad differences of opinion between the two women on social and other issues are far beyond the scope of this essay. What is significant is that there is another woman in Israeli politics named Tzipi that brings Palin to mind.
In a June 10, 2009 column, CNN's Tom Foreman wrote that Palin's supporters were "those who thought she was a fresh voice of conservative reason who is in touch with the needs and desires of working folks."
Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely is a thirty year old attorney and freshman parliamentarian, who also fits Foreman's description well. She is the Knesset's youngest member.
Hotovely, a member of Likud, grew up in the religious Zionist community in Israel. A former Ph.D. candidate at Tel Aviv University, she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Bar-Ilan University. She was active with the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth organization and attended Bruria, a well respected women's center for Torah studies in Jerusalem.
Tzipi Hotovely first gained national attention in Israel as a pundit on Israel's most prominent political debate TV show - think PBS's "The McLaughlin Group." Reporting on her TV experience, the January 26, 2009 Jerusalem Post stated:
"She became a household name in Israel through a weekly political television show called Moetzet Hahachamim (Council of Sages), which pitted her against top veteran journalists. She was the only woman, only right-winger and only religious panelist, yet held her own against a cadre of left-wing, aging secular men."
Hotovely described herself in an interview with the Brooklyn based newspaper the Jewish Press as a "religious right-winger."
Last May, she sponsored a Knesset conference on entitled "Alternatives to the Two-State Outlook" that included Knesset members from multiple parties and generated international media attention.
On July 6, 2009, the Jerusalem Post described Hotovely's recent efforts as "A long-awaited rebellion against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by Likud MKs."
Netanyahu claimed at an Israeli cabinet meeting that his government created consensus on the controversial "two states for two peoples."
The next day a letter of protest was issued. Hotovely had crafted the letter and had gathered the signatures for it. Half of the Likud Knesset faction signed her letter.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the letter included the following:
"We Likud Members of Knesset are turning to you due to reports that you would agree to freeze settlement growth temporarily in parts of Judea and Samaria, despite our promise to the voters to continue building in the settlements…"
"The Likud has always been in favor of natural development in Judea and Samaria, including during the election campaign."
"As Likud members, we cannot support a two state solution on principle … (it) is neither possible, nor proper, due to the moral right of the Jewish people to the land and for security reasons. Saying otherwise delegitimizes the Israeli struggle for the land."
Hotovely, a strong supporter of Israeli settlements, stated to the Jewish Press on July 1, 2009:
"I think and believe that if the Palestinians really want to have peace it shouldn't mean Israel has to withdraw from the settlements, because the settlements are part of our Jewish history. The Jews lived in Hebron, in Beit El. These are biblical places. Hebron is the place where King David began his kingdom. I don't think it's something we can let go, because what is Zionism all about? Zionism is really about going back to Zion, going back to Jerusalem, going back to all those biblical places. We need to start talking about the peace process without removing people from the settlements."
Many Israeli prime ministers were generals or combat veterans, including Sharon, Rabin, Barak and Netanyahu. Tzipi Livni worked for the Mossad. However, Hotovely is quite different.
In a speech about Abraham Lincoln given at Hillsdale College on May 8, 2009, Professor Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College noted: "If we mean by 'hero,' merely a sword-swinging swashbuckler on a spree, we will find little of that here … this is because heroism is not about skull-cracking. It is, first of all, about profound moral conviction."
Hotovely and Palin are rising political stars and both share forceful moral convictions. Neither one will be out of the headlines for very long. Both warrant more than our attention though, both are true patriots, and both deserve our best wishes and our sincerest prayers.
Moshe Phillips is a member of the executive committee of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans for a Safe Israel / AFSI. The chapter's website is at: www.phillyafsi.com and Moshe's blog can be found at http://phillyafsi.blogtownhall.com.
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