Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Center Event Turns A Bit Unruly

Livni heckled and booed at Jerusalem book launch

In a sign of the ever-emotional times in Israel, Kadima opposition leader Tzipi Livni was repeatedly heckled and booed Sunday evening at a Jerusalem event marking the launch of a book ironically entitled "Never Again Civil War" which deals with the pre-state Etzel underground movement.

The event at the city's Begin Center, which was also attended by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin of the ruling Likud Party turned rowdy almost as soon as the former foreign minister, whose parents belonged to the right-wing pre-State Zionist organization, began speaking.

"Some of you are likely angry that I left the tradition and base which I was perhaps educated in," Livni opened. "If there is one thing that prevents a civil war it is the ability to listen to each other and to differing opinions."

That, however proved to be too hard for the auditorium-packed audience of predominantly seniors, many of whom were affiliated with the organization - especially when an unrepentant Livni, who supported the 2005 Gaza pullout, quickly focused her talk to the present and began talking about the need for territorial compromise.

"You've become an extreme leftist who is ready to give Jerusalem to the Arabs," an elderly man shouted.

"This is not a discussion," organizers said, as they tried to hush him out. "This is not deception either," he retorted.

After repeated attempts to drum out the catcalls temporarily restored quiet, Livni insisted that she did not hand over a millimeter of Jerusalem - even though she conceded she favors territorial compromises - and said such remarks were "cynical pre-electioneering."

Her subsequents remarks on the need for territorial compromise was enough to set off the next round of heckling.

"We came to hear about the Altalena. Why did we come?" someone shouted.

"Let us talk about that which binds us," Livni shot back to some applause in the audience.

She noted that the Hebrew book event, was meant to mark leaders who knew how to say no to a civil war.

But the palpable tensions in the hall were too raw to repair.

"It is you who are tearing the Jewish nation apart time after time," someone blurted out.

An embarrassed Begin Center Director then took to the podium noting that organizers had invited Livni to appear at the event.

"Why?" someone asked.

"Whoever does not have the will to stay should leave," he responded, calling the heckler rude, and prompting a small walkout.

An unabashed Livni tried to carry out with her address, but after noting that there were a few wild ones in the audience was loudly booed by the whole crowd.

"I will continue fighting for my principles so long as I can,"Livni swiftly concluded.

The emcee, Channel 2 TV reporter Amit Segal whose father Hagai authored the book, then took the podium and offered his personal apologies to Livni only to be heckled himself.

In an earlier address, Rivlin had cautioned that the current US diplomatic "whirlwind" regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could again foment domestic tensions.

"We must always keep the struggle honorable, like we did in the Gaza pullout" he said in his uninterrupted remarks.

Then Livni took the podium.
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