Address by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to the 7th International Conference of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism,
Herzliya, Israel – September 11, 2007
Good evening. It is an honor to be here tonight and I would like to take this opportunity to share with you our understanding about global terrorism and address the best way to meet this challenge.
Six years ago today, September 11th, the world changed. The terror attack in the United States changed the lives of thousands of American citizens who lost their dear ones. This event – this terror attack – also created a new understanding of the real meaning of terror. In a way, this terror attack also created new "camps" in the world. That day, I believe, the world was automatically divided into two different camps. One the one side, there were those who saw the attacks on TV screens, who wept and wanted to hug the American citizens who lost their dear ones. On the other side, there were those who danced, who cheered the terrorists, and who felt that maybe this terror attack represented their own ideology.
We need to understand this division between moderates and extremists, because those who don’t understand that there’s a war going on out there between the extremists and the moderates are going to lose this war. And in order to win this war we need to understand some fundamental assumptions concerning modern terrorism.
The first understanding is that the nature of conflicts is changing from more national conflicts to more religious ones. Conflicts which are based on national aspirations can be solved; but conflicts which are based on extreme ideology – extreme religious ideology – cannot be solved. They are not solvable. In order to comprehend this, we need to understand that while in the past, terror and extremism emerged in the form of threats coming from states, now we face non-state entities, organizations, and those who are seeking to undermine other states, other regimes, in order to dictate their own extreme agenda.
We also have to understand that these extremists exploit our very own values. While part of our democratic values is to understand others and to give others the right to express themselves, we are also willing to fight for our own rights. These extremists, however, are looking to deprive others of their own rights.
We need to understand this because, in the past we thought that the tools of mass media and the Internet could be used in order to spread moderation all over the world. But unfortunately, what we see is is completely the opposite: these tools are being used by extremists in order to spread their own ideas and also to recruit some of the younger generation in different places in supporting their goals.
We need also to understand that the global village, which is part of our vision of the free world, is being used; that distance is no longer an obstacle to these terrorists. Terrorism transcends borders. We need to understand that, while they use and exploit our democratic values, we need to act according to our values in order to stop them.
So, what should we do? I believe that there is a better understanding these days that the world is being divided between the extremists and the moderates, and we need to do something to meet this challenge. I believe that most of the international leaders understand the meaning of the threats. Unfortunately, despite this understanding, there is a gap between the understanding and the actions that are being taken by the international community.
I believe that sometimes, despite the understanding that these are terrorists, there is a kind of eagerness to understand the reasons for terrorism. I believe that we need to change some of the ways we are looking at or trying to explain terrorism. I do not believe in the phrase, "One terrorist is another’s freedom fighter." I believe that there is no just cause for terrorism. I believe that terrorism is terrorism, and only if and when the international community and the international leaders understand that there is no just cause for terrorism can they decide on the right actions against terrorism.
I believe that, in accordance with our own values, we need also to understand that there is no comparison between those who fight terrorism and the terrorists themselves. Let’s just take a few examples. Last year, in Lebanon, Israel needed to address the threat coming from Hizbullah – which is a terrorist organization and the long arm of Iran. Iran is the real threat, not only to the region but to the world. While at the beginning of the war the world understood and said clearly that Israel had the right to defend itself, after only few days of war, I heard the word "disproportionate." I heard from other leaders that Israel was taking "disproportionate actions" against Hizbullah. What are proportionate actions? I really don’t know. We face terrorist organizations. We face a situation in which they hide their own missiles in apartments. We face a situation in which they used their civilian population. We faced a situation in which these civilians harbored the terrorists. And we needed to defend our own citizens. The world understood our need, but simultaneously called on us to take proportionate actions.
We face the same situation right now in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is a designated terrorist organization. It used the democratic system – and I would also like to say a few words about the need to change some of the rules of democratization in the world – but they are in power right now in the Gaza Strip. They deliberately target kindergartens. They deliberately target Israeli civilians. While Israel needed and needs to take steps in order to defend its own citizens, the world on one hand understands Israel’s need to respond and defend its own citizens but on the other hand, it asks us, even demands of us, something called "proportionate action" and accuses us of punishing the population. Believe me, we don’t want to punish the population. But on the other hand, we need to do something against these terrorists and against Hamas.
So basically, while the world understands the nature of the threat, on the other hand, the world is not willing to take certain actions against terrorism, even though it’s clear that it exists and what the nature of the threat is.
A few words, as I said, about democratization. I believe in the democratic values, and I believe, at this current stage of the process, that the world now is changing in some places as they adopt the idea of democratization and democracy. But real adoption of democracy doesn’t only mean that you can go to the polls and each individual has the right to vote. There is the need to adopt the values of democracy in order to participate in elections.
This is part of every constitution in the world. It is part of the Israeli – not constitution, but according to our Supreme Court, a party which supported racism in the past cannot participate in elections. It is part of the European Constitution, and a party that supported the Basques in Spain cannot participate in elections. It is part of the new constitutions in Afghanistan and in Iraq but, alas, unfortunately, this is not part of a constitution or of any rules in the Palestinian Authority or in Lebanon. In fact, Israel pays the price for this because Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, a designated terrorist organization all over the world, participated in the elections and took power. And then the international community says something like, "These were free and fair elections" – and they were not.
The armed militia of Hizbullah – a terrorist organization – exploited the system in Lebanon in order to get power. It is in the interest of the world to support the Lebanese government. It is in the interest of the world to make Lebanon a free state that can exercise its sovereignty over the entire territory. Simultaneously, there is this armed militia which the world decided to dismantle according to the Security Council resolution. But the world is not willing to take all the steps which are needed in order to do so.
So basically, as I said before, there is a gap between the understanding of the world, between some of the decisions according to the Security Council, and the steps which are being taken by the international community.
Talking about the United Nations and decisions that are being made, it takes time. Time is of the essence and time works against the moderates. Another example: Iran. Clearly the world cannot afford a nuclear Iran. The threat is clear. Two decisions have been adopted by the United Nations Security Council. Time is of the essence, and sanctions work. But it’s not enough, and we need to enhance the sanctions. We need more sanctions. We need sanctions not only by the United Nations Security Council, but more sanctions that need to be taken by the private sectors. We need a full cessation of trade with Iran. There are certain parameters; there are certain sanctions that clearly can make a change. The world knows it; the international community and the international leaders know it, but at the end of the day, the decision-making process takes time.
And there is another idea: in order to make the sanctions more influential, there is also a need to get everybody on board. There is a need for consensus. But this process to get everybody on board led in the past – and I hope it won’t lead in the future – to compromises. Talking about Iran and the sanctions of the Security Council, the need to get Russia and China on board led to compromises on the nature of the sanctions. Right now there is an ongoing process in order to understand the ideas that Iran has placed on the table, and there is a need to enhance the sanctions and to make them more effective. The world knows it, but nobody is willing to take the risks.
While we are talking about risks, while it’s clear here in Israel that this is the nature of the threat, and while world leaders are saying that this is the nature of the threat, they are willing to do so still willing to make compromises. Maybe sometimes it’s not comfortable to ask the private sector to take sanctions against Iran, and they are not willing to do so.
It is clear that this is not an Israeli problem. It is clear that it is the free world’s problem. It is clear that this is the problem of most of the neighbors of Iran, of the Gulf States. But yet more frustrating is the fact that, although clearly Iran is a threat to its neighbors, leaders in some Gulf States are not willing to speak out clearly against it, because we live in a neighborhood where it’s all about whether you beat the neighborhood bully of the or join him. Everybody is sitting on the fence watching the international community and looking for any hesitation coming from the international community. The fear is that maybe the international community is going to fail and they will have to join Iran and not beat it.
So the free world is being watched. The free world is being watched not only by Iran. It is being watched not only by the extremists. It is being watched by those who are being threatened by the extremists, and they would like to see the world show determination. They would like to see the world taking actions against terrorism. They would like to see that, and the world needs to understand that if we don’t take the right actions, this entire idea about the world being divided between extremists and moderates is going to change. This whole idea about the need not only to face the new threats to the region together but also to take an opportunity to identify the mutual interests of the moderates, to work together, is something that can change if the world shows hesitation.
So, there is a need to work together. I believe that it is feasible. I believe that since the world understands the nature of the threat, since the world understands also the opportunities that are there, we can do it. But we need world leaders to face not only being part of the international decision-making process, we need them also to face some radical elements within their own states. We need leaders to face and to speak clearly sometimes even against their own public opinion. We need the world’s leaders to speak sometimes against the media’s perception. We need the international community – the international leadership – to show its own leadership in different ways: in the United Nations Security Council, within their own states, in the bilateral talks between different states – in order to create something that can combine not only vague interests but also create real and concrete actions.
So, in order to proceed on the path of the world in this victory against extremists, we need to understand the nature of the threat. We need to understand the assumptions that I just mentioned. We need to understand that our values are being exploited. We need to understand that there is no comparison between the terrorists and between those who fight terrorism. We need to understand that it is not enough to speak about it, but that actions are needed. We need to understand that sometimes in order to achieve consensus and to get everybody on board, we pay a price that we shouldn’t pay. And we need to understand that fighting terrorism is not against our values. It is according to our values in order to save our values and in order to win this war. Thank you.