This idea of a dialogue between NATO and the Mediterranean countries represents an understanding and re-assessment of the new nature of the challenges we all face and the need for new alliances to challenge them.

Address by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to the NATO-Mediterranean Dialogue Ministerial Meeting
Brussels, 7 December 2007

Thank you for the opportunity to share ideas on mutual challenges and goals and the ways to achieve them. This idea of a dialogue between NATO and the Mediterranean countries represents an understanding and re-assessment of the new nature of the challenges we all face and the need for new alliances to challenge them.

From the Israeli perspective, this dialogue represents two important but different perspectives:

The first – the relationship between Israel and NATO. I want to say clearly that we are natural partners and allies, as we share the same values and interests: the values of democracy and freedom, the willingness to defend our common way of life, the need to cope with external threats and the aspiration for global security. Therefore it is only natural that we come together, under the auspices of NATO, and work together. Israel is keen to further develop its relations with NATO, both in terms of the political and strategic dialogue at all levels, as well as in the practical initiatives.

The second perspective is the fact that we meet here, members of the Mediterranean Dialogue, to discuss mutual security needs and cooperation between states in the region, some of them have no diplomatic relations with Israel. This symbolizes new understandings of the common challenge and gives hope for the future.

At first, we need to understand that there is a change in the nature of global challenges. There are the old-fashioned threats coming from states like Iran – a dangerous regime based on an extreme religious ideology and speaks clearly about its vision of wiping a state off the map, denies the Holocaust, works with radical elements in order to undermine other regimes in the region and financing terrorist organizations – while simultaneously tries to achieve nuclear weapons. Make no mistake: This is the Iranian goal – this is the purpose of the continuous enrichment program – in clear violation of the NPT and Security Council resolutions. There is not, and there should not be any dispute on this. I was pleased to hear your statement showing determination to continue the pressure and sanctions in Iran, because any hesitation now is a victory to the extremists over the camp of moderates that we are all part of.

The new threats come also from terrorist groups which act within weak states that have no capability to enforce their sovereignty – Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. We need to understand the nature of this problem, especially at the beginning of a new process of peace that was launched in Annapolis.

A few words on Annapolis:

In Annapolis we launched three different processes:

1. The bilateral process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, aimed to try and answer all issues revolving the conflict.

2. The process of actual changes on the ground –

a. the implementation of the Roadmap – an obligation that both parties took upon themselves in Annapolis. Israel expects the Palestinians to meet these obligations, to fight terror, as we are ready to implement our part.

b. Direct support of the international community to the capacity-building of the PA – in order to create a functioning and effective government.

3. The process with the Arab world – it is needed for the legitimacy, support of normalization in stages, to show that we understand the same challenges and threats.

I know that you are interested in the bilateral process, you want to help. However, the decisions for a peace treaty need to be made by both sides. Only the direct parties of this conflict can make decisions about their own destinies. The two sides need to bridge a gap, to reach a solution based on two states for two peoples, to make sure another terror state will not be created.

Israel wants to end the conflict while understanding there will be territorial concessions in order to create a Palestinian state. We already dismantled settlements in Gaza and we are willing to do more in the West Bank.

On the 12th of December we will hold the first negotiations meeting, but as the Israeli chief negotiator I want to say that our ability to bridge the gaps, to make compromises on the issue of borders, directly relates to our security needs. And so the gap we need to bridge is between the future understandings we will reach and the situation on the ground.

One way to understand this is that the implementation of future agreements will be subject to the implementation of the Roadmap. We can not just throw the keys to the other side of the border. Gaza is an example for that.

Here comes the role of the international community. Helping the capacity-building is not a task of less importance; without it any agreement can be left on the shelf, abused by extremists.

Keeping the distinction between moderates and extremists is not a theoretical strategy, it is crucial. We are now in a process that is expected to strengthen the capabilities of the Palestinian Authority – so they would fight terror instead of Israel. However, one can not exclude the possibility that we will need to discuss what can be the role of NATO in supporting the need for a change, a real change, on the ground.

I believe that it is our responsibility and aspiration to meet these goals and to implement the vision of two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security, but simultaneously we need to work together in order to stop smuggling of weapons in Lebanon and Gaza, and to fight terrorism wherever it arises.

There needs to be an understanding that peace requires not only a political agreement between the parties – that is to be achieved only through direct bilateral talks – but also through the assurances of its implementation on the ground.

Israel’s ability to reach an agreement based on substantial territorial concessions directly relates to our need to make sure we do not jeopardize our security and our future. Here, I believe, the dialogue between Israel and NATO begins.