FM Livni spoke of the relations between Israel and the Palestinians in the context of the Middle East, and in light of recent develoments in Gaza and the Iranian threat.

 Address by FM Livni to the Israel Council of Foreign Relations


(Photo: Reuters)

Address by Vice Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to the Israel Council on Foreign Relations
Jerusalem, 24 June 2007
[Translated from Hebrew]

I’ll begin with a few basic observations about the situation in the region, and mainly about the complex relations between Israel and the Palestinians which have obviously changed in recent days. These basic observations are necessary, among other things, for us to understand where we’re heading in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We also must look at processes taking place. Whereas in the past we saw that conflicts tended to be national ones, nowadays we see a process whereby increasingly more conflicts are becoming religious conflicts. And we must keep in mind that national conflicts can usually be resolved, whereas religious conflicts cannot be resolved in a way that is acceptable to both parties.

Another process we can see is one in which, in the struggle between fanaticism based on religious ideology and the moderates or more pragmatic parties, we see expressions of fanaticism that come less from countries and more from various organizations. This makes it all the more difficult for us to deal with such extremism.

It is far easier for a country, and definitely for Israel, to cope with a situation in which extremism, the threat, comes from a country. It is more difficult to deal with situations in which a country, say Iran, sends its tentacles to a different country, such as in case of Hizbullah in Lebanon; or when such a country strengthens terror organizations in a different region, like the Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. In these cases we must contend with terror organizations, some of which are well placed in certain countries, some are located worldwide. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the international conflict in which Israel finds itself, smack in the middle.

If we wish to discuss extremism that is reflected in a country, the best example, the one that threatens world peace, is Iran. In the case of Iran, we must realize that when there is a common understanding of the threat – and today there is a common understanding of the threat posed by Iran – it can lead to two completely different processes. The first is a type of understanding that the more moderate countries, the pragmatic countries, are the weak countries. The extremists are stronger. Time works against the moderates.

Therefore those countries that understand that Iran poses a threat to them (and I don’t mean Israel, because Israel won’t choose between moderates and extremists, it is by definition on the side of the moderates) – such as the Gulf states, Muslim countries, Arab counties, who see how Iran is trying to undermine the stability of their regimes by working with fanatic elements in their own back yards – must make a choice: to remain on the side of those who are trying to avert the threat, or to join it. Because, unfortunately, we are living in the same neighborhood as the neighborhood bully. You either manage to avoid him, you beat him up; or you join him – it all depends on the decisiveness of the international community.

The more decisive the international community is in the face of this threat, the easier it will be for the new partners joining this party. Those who understand that Iran is the threat must stick together and adhere to their mission. Should Iran see hesitation on the part of the international community, should each member make its own choice, we might then see the domino effect in action, whereby the new party will gradually dissolve, with powers that are today working together, drifting apart.

We can see some of this process in the context of the Mecca agreement, which is also relevant for understanding the current situation. Iran is embracing Hamas, and some of these countries, out of fear that they are about to lose some elements of the Palestinian Authority to Iran, rather than confront the problem head-on, tried to embrace them. This resulted  in the Mecca agreement, which created the Palestinian Unity Government.

This is the problematic side that may surface as a result of understanding the common danger. The positive side of understanding this danger is the creation of partnerships that sometimes seem like strange bedfellows. Only a few years ago some of these partnerships would seem inconceivable, totally illogical. Nonetheless I think it is possible, and indeed necessary, to try and translate the understanding of the common threat into a joint objective. This objective should be undertaken by all those who understand that the problems in this region are not of Israel’s making; that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict obviously requires a solution, but its solution will not free the region, nor the world, from the fanatic religious ideology as it is reflected, for example, in the Shiites of Iran, the Sunnis of the Hamas, and other organizations.

Therefore we now have to examine whether this new partnership is only for the sake of the common threat, or whether we can make the most of it and create a common goal for Israel, the pragmatic elements of the Palestinian Authority, some of the Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt, and any other state or body that realizes the nature of the threat and the need for a realistic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I would like to apply this regional observation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current situation. What I am about to say stems from seeing reality for what it is. It is not just an attempt to create some Israeli dream of peace, but stems from true awareness of the issues, which I will analyze one by one.

First of all, as Israelis, we must set our number one, top-level objective. Any process which we want to promote must be derived from Israel’s meta-objective as a state, as an Israeli society. As such, our top objective is simply Israel’s existence as a state that is a national home for the Jewish people, and a democratic state, with these values intertwined. A secure country that lives to the extent possible in peace with its neighbors, and exists on the land of Israel. This is the meta-objective of the State of Israel, which we tend to avoid writing on the wall, but it is nonetheless written there, all we have to do is reiterate and emphasize it. Because whatever steps we take, whatever process we embark on, we must analyze and determine whether it promotes that objective or not.

In order to promote Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state, and so that these two aspects do no conflict, Israel as a whole (and I think there is a social and political consensus on this) has concluded that Israel’s existence, as a democratic nation-state, compels it to promote a process which boils down to two separate nation-states. This includes giving up on part of something that to my mind also includes the right of the Jewish people to certain parts of the Land of Israel.

From this, we derive the plan of Israel’s principles for peace. These principles stipulate that in order to fix and promote this meta-objective, we must promote a process culminating in two nation-states, each providing a national solution to its people in a different place. One is the State of Israel, which provides a full and comprehensive solution to the Jewish people; a state that, upon its establishment, gave a home to refugees that were forced to leave Arab countries and came here, and to those who were forced to leave Europe and came here. A state which, by its very definition, sees itself as a national home both to Israeli citizens who live here and to Jews living elsewhere.

Similarly, the second part of the solution must be a future Palestinian state that will provide a full and comprehensive solution to the Palestinians, wherever they may be. Those who currently live in Gaza, in Judea and Samaria, in the territories, and those who left and are kept as refugees, maintained as bargaining chips for some future negotiations, usually under very difficult conditions. They are kept in such conditions purposefully, out of some thought or demand which is in contradiction of the principle of two nation-states; a concept which is called by some of the Palestinians, or by part of the Arab world, "the right of return".  It follows therefore, that a basic building block on which the process stands is the idea that establishing a Palestinian state is the full and comprehensive solution also to the refugee problems, in terms of concept.

This, then, is the first principle in Israel’s basic principles. And by the way, this should not be an Israeli basic principle, but rather a basic principle of anyone supporting two nation-states living in peace side by side. I repeat: living in peace. This means that the road to the establishment of a Palestinian state must pass through declaring war on terror.

Absolutely the last thing that Israel can afford, and the last thing the world needs, is the establishment of another terror state in the Middle East. Therefore, these are the two building blocks which anyone in the international community who espouses the principle of two states living in peace, must support. Not as a purely Israeli interest, but as something that can advance a just process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Naturally, the borders are a topic open to negotiations between the two sides. Israel will bring along its principles and, as is only natural, the Palestinians will bring theirs. Before I go any further, one comment: There is often a tendency, even among some of my friends and some in the international community, to think that if only we could turn back the clock to 1967 and have those borders back, everything would be solved and hardly any discussion of borders would be required. I wish to remind you that in 1967 there was no such entity as a Palestinian state; there was no link between Gaza and the West Bank; the former was part of Egypt, the latter part of Jordan. Ergo, we are now being asked to create a totally new creation, whose product must be the result of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – direct negotiations.

Regarding the process itself, I would like to address three circles, each of which is supposed to support the other. The first circle, the innermost one, between Israel and the Palestinians, is the direct negotiations I just mentioned. The first supporting circle should be the Arab world. And the second supporting circle, the external one, ought to be the international community.

When discussing the process between Israel and the Palestinians, if we have both feet firmly on the ground, we must ask ourselves, considering the problems we are up against, how do we deal with them, and is it at all possible to deal with them – considering the present state of affairs of pragmatists versus fanatics. On the one hand, there are terror elements – as I understand their ideology, and in light of the peace principles I just outlined – with whom it is impossible to reach a settlement. And on the other hand, there are the moderate elements, which generally speaking may be easier to reach a settlement with, but their executive powers are lower.

We must ask ourselves, when it comes to those pragmatic elements: can we really bridge the gap when it comes to negotiations. And assuming we do succeed, will the pragmatic elements be able to implement whatever was agreed upon, considering the fact that those pragmatic elements are usually the weaker elements, all the more so today, after recent events in Gaza and the takeover of Gaza by the Hamas.

The strategy adopted by Israel since the elections in the Palestinian Authority concerning this unnatural phenomenon of a terror organization winning the elections and overthrowing the Palestinian Authority, is differentiation. Namely, distinguishing between the moderate and the extremist elements, so as not to slam the door shut, out of an understanding that time works against anyone espousing the two-state solution which I mentioned earlier. All the more so in a place where, as time goes by, those pragmatic elements grow increasingly weaker and are almost disappearing in some places.

So, we adopted the strategy (by saying "we" I mean the entire international community, including Israel) of trying to act against terror, against Hamas, to isolate them, not to give them any legitimacy, not to give them a chance at economic prosperity, not to create a situation wherein they can supply the Palestinians with the goods for which they were chosen. At the same time, to try and create some sort of alternative rule via the pragmatic elements.

This distinction worked for a while, until – after several events in Gaza – all parties involved were called to Mecca and were asked to bring about a Palestinian unity. From that moment on, any distinction we could have made earlier – between the good guys and the bad guys, the Hamas and Fatah, Haniya and Abu Mazen, the terrorists and advocates of the two-state solution – went down the drain. Some kind of government was created which made the earlier distinction or differentiation well-nigh impossible.

What we see today is a renewal of that distinction, as a result of recent events in Gaza, as a result of the fact that a Hamas decision that brought about the disintegration of the "unity government". The idea of unity just didn’t work. The existing distinction, the one by which we want to continue to act, the distinction between moderates and extremists, now has also a territorial manifestation. And not only because the territorial distinction is a representation of Israeli policy. It actually happened. As we progress with the process, it will become easier for us to make this distinction on the ground, because of that distinction which is also a territorial distinction, not just a theoretical distinction between people, bodies or parties.

In effect, a new government has been formed, which seemingly accepts the very principles that the international community demanded that the unity government and the Hamas government  accept – and didn’t accept. Thus, this distinction has now become very clear. This enables us deal with the security challenge poses by Gaza. Gaza presents us with a security challenge, but enables us to deal with it by military means, just as it is forcing us to deal with the new government that’s been created. Or else it presents us with political challenges, on which we must act to strengthen this new government.

The only chance we have today is to maintain this clear distinction. Once again, when I say "we", I mean Israel, the moderate elements, the international community, and that part of the Arab world which would like to advance this process. Each one must now choose sides. Of course, a Palestinian has a hard time choosing sides. There’s an entire public out there, who are sometimes subjected even to physical threats. But I’ve also seen people who were ministers in the unity government and made their decision. Salam Fayad, who was the Minister of Finance in the unity government, chose a side, and he is now the head of the new government. Some have decided not to choose, and that also happens in the Arab world. The Arab world, too, will have to take sides.

The Arab world does not want to see the Hamas succeed. The Arab world understands that the Hamas is a phenomenon of the type that might emerge in anyone’s back yard. These things may be said out loud or they may be said behind closed doors, but it is nonetheless clear and well-known. But only if the Arab world, too, and each and every one of the countries, make this crystal clear, only then is there a chance that we can continue working with this distinction for any length of time.

Calls for unity sound very tempting, they sound very morally right, they sounds like the right thing to do. But in this case, unity is a problem, because it does not reflect the true state of affairs and does not contribute to the process. It reflects the lowest common denominator when it comes to any future process between the Palestinians and Israel. Any such process requires compromise. Of course it requires compromises on Israel’s part, too. But certainly when it comes to making serious decisions and making concessions to Israel, the temptation to revert to the warm embrace of the unity government, or the bear-hug of the Hamas, will certainly lead to the failure of the process, even if it might imply some type of increased stability in some places. 

Just as there are some Arab countries who have stated this and declared it loud and clear, so is there an expectation, that each side will stick to his own guns, and the sides, in this context, are very clear.

The correct order of going about things in this context is to decide now, to embark on a process, to reach a settlement, and then to produce the required internal conclusions within the Palestinian public and Palestinian society. This should be the way to go about things, rather than going back and trying to create some sort of process that may be perceived as more stable, but in fact closes down the options in negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.

Obviously, once we’ve analyzed the strategy and want to act on it, we still need to ask ourselves, we owe it to ourselves to find out: Will it work? With the help of this integrated strategy, can we really create some sort of agreement between us and the moderate elements? This integrated strategy always works in parallel: you have to act against the extremists while working with the moderates; you can’t have only half of the equation working. We must ask ourselves that question because history shows that where we didn’t ask such questions but entered a closed room with a high level of expectations, it brought about a process of deterioration, violence, intifada – as we saw after Camp David 2000. Therefore we must ask ourselves whether, in such a dialogue, a permanent settlement is now realistic. It would seem it isn’t, yet I do think that there are some points on which agreement can be reached with the right parties.

When speaking of bolstering the moderate elements, working in tandem with the pragmatists, what tools do we have at our disposal? Yes, at the disposal of the international community too, but mostly at Israel’s disposal. It can be money, arms, easing conditions, opening border crossings, and so on, and what we call a political horizon. That is, making it possible for the moderate elements to come to the Palestinian people and say, "We are the only ones who can, in addition to immediate relief, also give you a future, a future of peace, with a state of our own, a future in which we can make progress with Israel."

Usually, when we reach the point of making gestures, Israel’s gestures do not go beyond its security. Because what is at stake is always "can we take this one more step, or is any further step detrimental to our security." This is the question we are compelled to ask ourselves over and over again, before every gesture.

First of all, some gestures are by their very nature a once-off affair, such as money. This type of gesture by its very nature has a limited effect, its impression dissipates pretty fast. It has to be done, but we must be aware that it is good only for a particular phase; it cannot support a process in the long term.

Perhaps contrary to appearances, among all the list of "gestures" or the tools we have at our disposal, the so-called "political horizon" is the tool which can best be used without harm to Israel’s security – so long as there is a clear distinction between the dialogue, the agreements, what can be reached on paper, and what can actually be carried out.

Therefore, in the current situation, within the framework of the current relations between us and the Palestinians, after all the dramas and events in Gaza, after the new government in the Palestinian Authority, what we need to do is of course take the necessary action in Gaza, but at the same time work with the new government in two separate ways. Let’s call one the "short-term package" and the other the "forward-looking package". The first, the short-term package, comprises the type of gestures that are currently being discussed and that translate into economic and other gestures. The second, forward-looking package, is the type of dialogue that we should conduct with the new Palestinian government. In this "package", we have to place on the table things that not only give the Palestinian public hope, but also serve and represent the Israeli interests in the process.

For many years now we have been repeating phrases, let’s not call them slogans, such as "two states, living in peace". Fine. But what would be the meaning of such a Palestinian state, if we truly don’t want it to present a threat to Israel? There must be some basic Israeli interests which we have to lay on the table now. So, what will that state be like? Will it be demilitarized? That must be an Israeli interest, and a legitimate one. After having seen events in Gaza, how do we ensure that such events aren’t repeated in the future in Judea and Samaria? The Palestinians, on their part, will probably present us with principles that are relevant and important to them, which is fine. But this would be part of a discussion aimed at ensuring Israeli security.

This a debate that has not been held for many years. It has been seven years since the last debate, and even then we were unable to reach any agreement. It represents the interests of both sides, because it can provide a political horizon, to turn the word "state" into something more concrete, and provide Israel with its needs, in order to achieve progress in the peace process and provide the understanding that making progress in this process does not endanger safety, but rather serves it. Aren’t there any other things on which we can reach an agreement in principle with the moderate group in the Palestinian Authority? We must find out, and the sooner the better, because as time goes by, the ability to achieve such understandings is dwindling.

All the above is on condition that applying these understandings would be subject to the terms, some of which appear in the Roadmap; some can be pre-agreed, before arriving at the agreements in principle. But in any case they can be achieved only where there is a new Palestinian government, one that recognizes Israel, one that wishes to promote the idea of two states wherever it has control or influence. This is what I say to colleagues who say to me, "Be serious, is this the time to talk to the moderate elements? Can’t you see they can’t deliver? So what is there to talk about?" And I reply that talking is always an option; ultimately the acting on it is up to them. But by giving them tools to strengthen themselves, I am also strengthening my own interest of promoting the process of two states, by subordinating the application of principles to their actual implementation.

As I said earlier, gaps have been created between places where the new government can act and places that are under Hamas control. And I can make the Palestinians see that distinction, make them aware of what a government means – the difference between having a government that can promote a dialogue versus a government that attempts to achieve certain objectives by way of terror, and it will not be able to achieve them via terror. However, it is not enough to say that terror will not achieve its objective if, at the same time, we do not provide an alternative to terror.

I am not in the least naive, I have both feet firmly on the ground, and if we work in the right way all this can be translated into action. Moreover, if we don’t do it, we may lose our last chance. There may be other processes, other solutions, other ways, within a different reality that may come about in the future. But in the present window of opportunity there is a serious military challenge in Gaza, but also a political challenge that must be answered.

The second circle is the circle of the Arab world, and I hear a lot of debates, initiatives, the Arab League, yes, no, how should we respond, and so on. First of all, as a rule, I prefer conducting discussions with the relevant party, and the relevant party is the Palestinians. Secondly, I prefer conducting discussions when I have my own plans to place on the table, not just the other side’s plans. Perhaps I can’t free myself from old habits, but in the days when I was still a regular citizen and practicing a regular profession and gave legal counsel, I usually preferred being the side handing in my own drafts which would serve as a basis for the work, rather than accepting a ready-made draft from opposing counsel. And, last but not least, to create a situation in which the parties interested in contributing to the process, can do so in a positive way.

Let’s consider the matter of the Arab League. The Arab League’s initiative started with an article by Tom Friedman in the New York Times, which spoke of willingness on the part of the Arab world to normalize its relations with Israel after peace is achieved between Israel and the Palestinians, with the terms of the settlement already decided upon. I don’t know whether to call them terms, criteria, parameters- whatever, but these are: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the 1967 borders. This was the starting point. Later, the Arab League convened in Beirut and two more items were added, which, from our point of view are contrary to the concept.

As you may recall, earlier on this evening I said, when speaking of the concept, that in addition to the principles of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and 1967 borders, a solution must be provided to the refugee issue. Therefore I say, this is not "in addition to", it is part of the basic solution of establishing a Palestinian state. In light of the new understanding that has dawned on the Arab world that the danger is in fact coming from a different source, and perhaps there is a chance here to positively promote the process between Israel and the Palestinians – this initiative was once again tabled.

I met with two representatives of the Arab League who were appointed for this purpose: the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs. I started with the first question. I asked them, "Just to make things clear, do you now wish to negotiate on a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinians? Do you wish to represent the Palestinians in the negotiations?" They said, "No." I said, "Okay, so the first thing we can note that we agree on is that the negotiations – and here I go back to the first circle – must be bilateral, between Israel and the Palestinians." And they said, "Exactly so."

The second thing I said to them was: Listen, any peace process requires compromise, both on Israel’s side and on the Palestinians’. They realize that. That is, the moderate elements, though weak, will have to deal with Hamas, with extremist elements, and every concession will be difficult to agree upon, difficult to get the Palestinian public to accept. Your job is to give them the strength to contend with this challenge. And instead, what do you do? You make up parameters, run around marketing them to the world with all sorts of emissaries who travel the world saying go ahead and adopt the terms of the Arab League as a settlement. But this "settlement" you’re pushing represents the Arab narrative; the Palestinian narrative. That’s all well and good, but it is obviously not the result of a joint settlement. This is merely your position. And the more you enlist other countries to support it, the more you make a true settlement impossible. And if you present these as parameters, (or terms, depending on whom you ask, Amr Mussa or someone else) then you are restricting the ability of any Palestinian, even one who really wants the two-state option, even if he wants peace with all his might, if he has to make even the slightest concession, how can he?

If that is the case, I said to them, lay aside all parameters. Just as we, Israel, have our own principles, which I presented to you, so in any process, in any dialogue between us and the Palestinians, each side will come and present its own ideas. But your job is to say that you will support any compromise, whatever it may be, which the Palestinians will reach with Israel. This idea was finally accepted. It took some time, but they realized that the mere presentation of the parameters as terms obstructs the process rather than promotes it.

And lastly, I said to them: Look, it’s a very positive thing, from Israel’s point of view, that you are talking about normalization with Israel at the end of the Israeli-Palestinian process. I suppose this was meant as an incentive to Israel to advance the peace process with the Palestinians. But I said to them, Israel has its own reasons for advancing the peace process between itself and the Palestinians, it doesn’t really need that end-of-process incentive. I wish that we were already at that point. However, I said to them, we are in a situation where every process is one that advances by fits and starts, and the Palestinians usually have difficulties in giving something in return when Israel makes them a gesture. So instead of waiting with the normalization you speak of for the end of the process, why don’t you use it now. Just as Israel gives the Palestinians a political horizon, why don’t you give Israel a political horizon. Just as we are willing to do this in stages, why don’t you do so with us.

I won’t be the one to tell you when to strengthen Israel in this context. You will be the ones to examine and decide, according to your own criteria – when Israel makes a move which you too consider to be in the right direction, in this process with the Palestinians; when the Palestinians, in their weak state, cannot create a situation in which the Israeli public, which also deserves some political horizon, also needs to understand that all these discussions of a settlement are not merely castles in the air – that’s when you should embark on some steps. It doesn’t have to be all of you at once. But meetings of the type you currently hold with me only in closed chambers, why not start having them in the open. Instead of the only representatives of the Arab League in such a meeting being those of Jordan and Egypt – countries with whom we have relations anyway – why don’t you add countries with which we don’t currently have relations. When Israel makes another positive move, open an office in Tel Aviv. Not all of you at once, but some. But create dynamics that support the process, not merely wait for its conclusion. Show us that the League supports the process.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the second circle. The Arab world must understand, first of all, that it must take sides – and the sides are within the Palestinian Authority, and they are very clear. It is not a matter of choosing between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That is not what they are up against. They must choose between the two sides within the Palestinian Authority – the pragmatists of the new government versus Hamas. If they make the most of the idea of supporting the pragmatist elements in the Palestinian Authority, strengthening them and strengthening Israel in its efforts, then the Arab world can play a dramatic role. They may have not done so in the past, and perhaps that made it difficult for Palestinian elements to reach an arrangement.

Beyond these is the third circle – and I shall be brief here: the Western world, the international community. The international community can, of course, choose the right side, maintain the illegitimacy of Hamas, promote relations with the new government and bolster it, and also give the Palestinians an economic horizon, in addition to the political horizon that Israel can give it. It can prepare a "package", and I don’t mean one for immediate consumption. Various gestures, assistance, humanitarian aid – all that is already taking place, should take place and will take place regardless. But I am talking about a different type of package, the type that says: it is ready and waiting, it can happen, all you have to do is make progress with the process with Israel. The compromise that you may make on some of your principles, a compromise you will have to reach with Israel, will pay off many times over. Through the international community, new economic options, infrastructures – a whole series of things can be accomplished with the help of the international community.

Therefore, within the new situation, I think that we must adhere to those principles we spoke of. And I think we must act, using language from the world of sports, hard and fast. Hard and fast, for and against. Hard and fast against the Hamas, its takeover of Gaza, against terror. And also hard and fast to give the new Palestinian government a politically bolstering shot-in-the-arm.

I wholeheartedly believe that this is not a zero-sum game. It is high time that the international community and the Arab community understand that this is not a case where supporting the Israeli stance means being against the Palestinians or the Arabs. It means that you are supporting a process shared by a large group. The sooner everyone realizes this, the sooner we will live to see the process which, I hope, will determine the meta-purpose of the State of Israel.

Thank you.

Questions & Answers

Q: You have mentioned the incentives, money, arms, concessions, unilateral withdrawal.

FM Livni: Concessions and compromises are not unilateral withdrawal.

Q: You have done all that. It has not worked. So, I am wondering what is new about what you are proposing now, when everything else has failed, when what you are proposing has already failed?

Q: With the takeover by the Hamas of the Gaza Strip, and after thousands on both sides, Jews and Arabs both, since the Gaza Courts, is it not time for the international community and for Israel and for all concerned parties, to acknowledge that the peace process or, if you will, the Gaza process, has failed?

Q: Do you not believe that peace is about what we teach our children, and should we not be suggesting or demanding rather, from the Palestinian Authority that they immediately recall these terrible programs that they have on the television and the feeling of hatred towards us?

Q: We had a chance some weeks ago, to have another discussion or conference with you, just after the horrible incidents in Gaza began. We now have, within a few weeks, a completely changed picture – still, in the background there is the Hamas. What is in your judgment, and in your analysis, the ultimate game of the Hamas that Israel has to count for because, it is certainly not that the Hamas will just be content in heading the force of the power in the mini state – how far do you see this local Hamas be staying local, or is it only let us say, a guided instrument of another power?

Q: You mention that Israel is contemplating providing arms and money to strengthen the Palestinians but how do you ensure that it is not a bear hug, and Palestinians may not be called the enemy of Israel, but it is on the other side, it is not on the same side with Israel. So, how do you make sure of the degree of assistance of strengthening that you are going to give the Palestinians and maybe one day they will be too strong and my question is how do you ensure the degree  how do you ensure that this is not a bear hug.

FM Livni: I wish to answer first the question easiest for me to answer, the one about education. Of course education is a central issue. Obviously, if children grow up in circumstances where they are brought up on non-recognition of the State of Israel, then this is an education to hate, like in mosques, not to mention the message that gets across. The only chance is to move from a technical type of process to a process of real acceptance of one side by the other. That too is a process. I speak today in terms of processes out of hope that future generations will grow up with the significance not only of the process but of joint life in the region. Of course education, the mosques, the incitement, changing textbooks are all critical and must be part of Israel’s demands. All this does exist in previous agreements but has not so far been enforced. So my answer is an unequivocal "yes".

With regard to a question asked earlier, I presented the tools at our disposal for bolstering the moderates. It was an inventory list including money, arms, opening border crossings to traffic, making life and the economy easier by lifting restrictions, and providing a political horizon. I said that, concerning each of these tools, we had to examine to what extent we can provide them in order to strengthen the moderates, yet at the same time make sure it does not damage Israel’s safety and security. For each of these tools, there is a "dose" which must serve as a yardstick. A certain dose can be helpful while a different dosage can become dangerous. This is true even for the opening of border crossings. I can open the gates to allow entry of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and through that same gate a terrorist will enter to hurt me.

This is part of what we must examine in relation to each of these tools. Weapons, of course, constitute the most dramatic component. I mentioned the entire inventory specifically in order to say that, from the entire list, dialogue is the least dangerous. On condition that I make sure it includes the elements important to me – the subject of education, the pledge that the Palestinian state will not be a terror state.

This should not be a case of throwing the key into the court of the other party in the hope that all goes well, but rather determining security principles such as demilitarization, supervision of border crossings, aerial navigation rights – a whole list of Israeli interests that has already been thought out. The list exists, we only have to demand these principles. Because simply throwing the key into the other side’s court in the hope that it is caught by some responsible adult is really not a true option.

About the Hamas: this is a party about which we must not delude ourselves; we must know exactly what we’re up against. This is an extremist ideological party based on a religious ideology. Its charter is not something originating in antiquity, it is only from about 1988. Anyone reading the party’s charter, its platform, can see clearly (despite what I heard yesterday, when a certain speaker denied that they intend to create a caliphate in the region) that they have no intention of coming to terms with the existence of the State of Israel. Moreover, in their view, they are waging war on all non-believers.

So what’s going to happen? In any such process – and this to some extent also answers another question – we stand before a choice of options that are mostly bad options. But ultimately, we must make a choice. And when doing so, we must take into account that the option of not doing anything is also a decision, which has its price. So when we consider our options, if anyone thinks that a stalemate is the type of option desirable, because the others failed, I will ask them to at least jot down next to it the price that we might pay for it. The argument is a legitimate one, but one that carries a price tag.

So, what will happen with Hamas? There are several possibilities. I can’t foresee the future. One possibility is that a change will come about through elections in the Palestinian Authority, and this time I hope that the world will have learnt its lesson and take the decision that Israel asked for prior to the last elections in the Palestinian Authority. There is no democracy in the world where a terror organization may take part in elections. There is no such thing. None whatsoever. Neither in the European constitution nor anywhere else, not even in constitutions recently proposed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Israel the Supreme Court disqualified a party whose principles are racist, preventing it from running in elections. That’s part of democracy.

When we approached the world on this issue, I was not yet Foreign Minister but I did collect constitutions from all over the world, and gave several examples. If you will recall, there was the Spanish case of the party that supported the Basque organizations and used violence. Or examples from Turkey, and other examples where parties were disqualified, and such decisions were held up by the European Court of Human Rights. The only two countries in the world where terror organizations are allowed to take part in the political system, without having to fulfill any threshold requirements, are Lebanon – the Hizbullah, and the Palestinian Authority – the Hamas. And the one paying the price, in both cases, is Israel.

Therefore this demand is not against the democratic process but rather the meaning of democratization. If these criteria had been enforced on Hamas before the elections, i.e. had they been told that if they want to take part in the elections they must accept the terms that are now being put to them – perhaps we would have witnessed a process whereby such a body turns into a true political party. But no one demanded that of them. I for one would like, in the future, to table this issue, and I hope that it will be assimilated. That is one option.

A second option – perhaps as an ideological organization that cannot reach any compromises or agreement, due to its own internal reasons, the Hamas might decide to live with a product that someone else has achieved and placed on the table. A scenario in which the Fatah determines the de jure and the Hamas lives with it de facto. I don’t know. Perhaps.

The third option is that neither of the above will happen, and we will be forced to constantly use military tools which do not provide an absolute solution, but force us to deal with a problem which is also a security threat. Putting an end to arms smuggling through the Philadelphi corridor is critical to this issue. Anyone who does not want to see Gaza turn into something even worse than it is today, in terms of its connections with organizations like Al Qaida, with Iran, with those type of elements, must stop it at the border. And this border exists, by the way. The Philadelphi corridor is all of 18 km, perhaps 17.8 km, it isn’t such a big deal, believe me. So this too must be taken care of.

These are the options I come up with when trying to analyze how the situation can develop, which directions it can follow. If we had at our disposal any other option that would make the problem go away, I assume we’d take it… but everything happens in terms of processes.

And back to the earlier issue of what we tried and what we didn’t. As I said, non-action has also its price. I think considering the dichotomy in Israel between those who are for promoting the peace process in a way which includes  war and employing the army against terror, against Hamas wherever they may be, one must think about the meta-objective I spoke of and weigh whether the passage of time gets us any closer to it. Since, in my view, the meta-objective is the existence of a Jewish state, a national home, a democratic state – needless to repeat – there are certain procedures I must promote, and a stalemate does not get me any closer to it – on the contrary.

There is a certain process of delegitimizing Israel as such in some countries around the world. If the Quartet has determined that the Hamas must recognize Israel’s existence, or that any Palestinian government must do so, then I wish to add the words "as a Jewish state." I want to see what happens when they add these words. It would probably arous some sort of argument in some countries. And then I’ll deal with it. And in dealing with it, my choice is to promote a process that is non-damaging, in my viewpoint; or that the risk I am taking is a calculated one. 

Now, there may be a different group of people who say that the objective is the existence of Jews in as many parts of the land of Israel as possible. That’s a different option, a different objective. With regard to that objective, every day brings us closer to it. Because with every passing day there is stronger holding on the land. But I disagree with them, in terms of the objective. That is why my choices are what they are.

I, incidentally, believe that Oslo was a mistake. Not because of the principle of partition, but because, among other things, it put off the issue of the refugees – the most critical issue – to the end of the process. And today I unfortunately find myself in a situation where, among the options I have, I can see that what could have perhaps be done one minute before Oslo, is no longer available to us. We no longer have all the options.

These are the decisions facing decision-makers in Israel, and I among them.

I think that about wraps it up. Thank you.