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What a Difference! Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky
September 2, 2008

ImageThe moment Gov. Sarah Palin came out of the Alaskan cold at the behest of Sen. John McCain to become his running mate the American news media and thereby the American public knew all about her – what kind of work her husband does, how many children she has, the fact that her youngest child was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome during her pregnancy and the fact that she refused to have an abortion. 

By the way, Connecticut Republicans would have preferred to see their state's Gov. Jodi Rell as the GOP's candidate for the vice presidency, if only because she has much more administrative experience than Gov. Palin, but Sen. McCain, obviously, was of another mind.

As soon as Gov. Palin emerged as his choice for the nomination, the media came out with a politically-sensational story that her 17-year old daughter was pregnant and that she too would not have an abortion.

Compare all that to the absence of personal data about Israeli Foreign  Minister Zippy Livni, the leading candidate in her ruling Kadima party's primary election, Sept. 17, to replace the incumbent Ehud Olmert as prime minister – the fact that her husband's name is Naftali Spitzer, the number of children they have, the fact that one of her sons is due for military service, her husband's  source of income and the extent of his former involvement in the Likud party and current involvement in the Kadima party in her behalf.

So sensitive is Ms. Livni about her non-Hebraic married name that she was jolted if not offended when Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a Laborite rival referred to her as Zippora instead of the native Israeli nickname, Zippy.  Those familial details evidently do not fit her "sabra" image.

Gov. Palin's views about contemporary controversies in the United States were well known before Sen. McCain tapped her.  Likewise her comparative lack of executive experience received instant attention by the electronic and print journalists.  But few Israelis have been clued in on Livni's performance or lack of same in the variety of ministerial posts she held before becoming their version of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (her role model).

The attractive Alaskan governor tried to reassure the U.S. electorate that she will be able to gain sufficient expertise on international issues by dint of being involved in White House deliberations about them.  Livni did her on-the-job training as head of the Israeli team that has been negotiating with the Palestinian Authority.  Or, to fall back on her verbal coinage, with the "pragmatic (sic) Palestinians."

There is one significant distinction between the posts to which these two women aspire respectively.  As vice president, Gov. Palin will not have to make policy if only because if elected she will be Number Two while Livni if elected will be Number One.

Some American feminists may draw encouragement if not inspiration by Sen. McCain's choice of a woman as his running mate.  Not so their Israeli counterparts.  They have been there before.

The late Mrs. Golda Meir served valiantly as prime minister during the 1970's.

All the way back then admiring Israelis used to say that Golda was the only one in her government who wore pants.  As foreign minister, Livni has gained notoriety for her pants suits.  But they do not compare to the euphemistic garb worn by Mrs. Meir.    And the American reporters covering the current presidential campaign are unlikely to finger Gov. Palin because of her wearing apparel.  They are and will be privy to many much more personal details about Gov. Palin that their Israeli colleagues just will not get or will just ignore about Foreign Minister Livni as has been the case to date.


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