Tzipi Livni found herself at the wrong end of a tough time today at a National Press Club newsmaker session.
The Israeli foreign minister’s handlers might have misunderstood how the Club’s "Newsmaker" events work: They’re more of a free-for-all than by-the-book press conferences, and a number of the reporters belong to the non-mainstream media. Not the most conducive venue for expanding on the Memorandum of Understanding she had just signed with Condoleezza Rice, expanding the U.S. and NATO role in combating weapons runs to Hamas.
Things started off straightforwardly enough with a CNN "what does this do to Annapolis" question, but went a little awry when Russell Mokhiber, who calls himself a "corporate crime reporter" asked her to comment on the killing of 300-some children during the Gaza operation, and then complained to the NPC that it was hosting a "terrorist." (Not that she is one, but what’s wrong with hosting terrorists for Q and As?)
A couple of other hostile questions, then a good one from al-Jazeera (how does she feel about Arab nations pulling their ambassadors), and then mine: What does this Memorandum of Understanding signed with the United States actually mean? What will the United States do to stop arms destined for Hamas from reaching Egypt? What’s the guts – or, in Hebrew/Yiddish, the untranslatable "tachles", the nuts and bolts, the meaning of the thing?
That’s the word I used and Livni, for the first time, relaxed and smiled.
The press club transcriber apparently did not understand, though, and this is how it came out:
Q Ron Kampeas from JTA. What’s the top list, the meat of the MOU, in terms of — I’m not sure I understand what more will be done now to prevent Iran and other backers from bringing weapons into the Gaza Strip. Will the U.S. more aggressively board boats that it suspects of bringing in weapons, or will other nations do that?
MIN. LIVNI: This is a beginning. I completely agree that we have now an understanding and it needs to be translated — also in the future to more concrete measures. But the understanding is that this is a priority, that we need — or the United States is going to work with NATO members and other international members in order to enhance not only what is doing now, today, in the Mediterranean and other places — the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea and the eastern part of Africa — these are places from which — or these are the roots of smuggling from Iran to Egypt.
And now we are going to work with the international community and other parts in Europe to translate it into more concrete action. The idea is to enhance, to add some new ideas how to do so, in an understanding that rearmament of Hamas is something which is against the interests of the world and not something which is only the Israeli problem.
"Top List". Oh well, at least we know Livni understood – even if she did kind of evade the question.