Israel’s sense of mission and its collective identity are unchanged – to be a vibrant Jewish and democratic state, secure and at peace in our ancient homeland.

Greetings by Vice Prime Minister and Minster of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to the Diplomatic Corps on the Occasion of Israel’s 59th Independence Day

Beit Hanassi, Jerusalem
24 April 2007

Your Excellency Acting President and Speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik,
Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Eminent Heads of Churches and Religious Communities,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentleman,

It is a great pleasure to welcome the diplomatic community here to celebrate Israel’s 59th Independence Day.

For all the challenges and all the work that lies ahead we, the people of Israel, are living the dream of our ancestors; the dream that sustained the Jewish people for thousands of years, in good times and in the darkest of times. There is no time like Yom Haazmaut to rise above the day to day and appreciate this remarkable fact. I know that Israel faces a challenge in closing the gap between perception and reality. We live in a world where images matter.

As diplomats living here, you have been exposed to a different Israel – the real Israel – rather than the Israel that is often portrayed on television screens around the world. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your personal efforts to enhance the relationship and the ties between Israel and the nations of the world. I look around and I know that, despite what the Bible says, we are no longer, nor should we be, a "nation that dwells alone".

In the face of enormous difficulties, we have built a flourishing economy that encourages innovation in the Jewish spirit of "tikkun olam" – of helping to make the world a better place. Israeli technology is helping sufferers of Alzheimer’s and other diseases, it is developing ways to turn radioactive waste into clean usable energy, and it is inventing new ways for people around the world to communicate with each other.

We have a vibrant democratic society, governed by the rule of law, that nurtures creativity in literature, music and the arts and welcomes debate – sometimes too much debate.

As you all probably know by now, Israel is also unique country in some surprising ways.

It may be the only country where combat soldiers, amongst the bravest in the world, receive calls from their Jewish mothers three times a day, and lie to them about where they are – so that they shouldn’t worry.

It is the only country that has faced scuds from Iraq, missiles from Lebanon, and suicide bombers from the West Bank, but an apartment in Tel-Aviv still costs more here than in Paris or Rome – and rightly so!

It is the only country where you need to listen to the news at least once an hour since the changes that happen here in an hour can take months or years almost anywhere else.

And it is the only country where three government ministers can present four different peace plans and it passes without comment. (Mine, of course, is the one that counts!).

Dear Friends,

Much has changed in Israel in these last 59 years, but some important things remain the same.

Israel’s sense of mission and its collective identity are unchanged – to be a vibrant Jewish and democratic state, secure and at peace in our ancient homeland. We want to live in peace. We have no desire to control Palestinian lives. We deserve security. Our children deserve a future, free of hate and full of hope.

It is this vision that drives our principles for peace – to see two states, two homelands, living side by side in peace and security. To see a viable Palestinian State emerge beside Israel, that is not a terror State, and that is the homeland and the national answer for the Palestinian people, wherever they may be.

I do not believe this is a zero-sum game. This vision is not pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. It is, simply, pro-peace.

In advancing this vision and our dream of a peaceful Middle East, the past year has highlighted new threats, but also new opportunities. The region has witnessed the rise of radical forces, headed by Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas who see the conflict not as political and resolvable but as religious and endless, and they wish to take us back not to 1967 but to 1947, before Israel was established.

We see continued attempts to de-legitimize Israel, alarming incidents of incitement and anti-Semitism, and a regime that denies the Holocaust while seeking the weapons to perpetrate one.

We must not close our eyes to these dangers, and we cannot reach peace unless we work, together with you, to overcome them. But at the same time, and perhaps because of these dangers, new opportunities are emerging.

Old divisions between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs are breaking down. For many, the threats we all face have crystallized the common interests that are shared by moderates across the region in a peaceful and stable Middle East based on co-existence rather than intolerance, and the need to cooperate to achieve this end.

And, perhaps for the first time, the Arab world is coming to realize its critical role in providing support and legitimacy for the process of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, including by reaching out to Israel and providing it with a regional political horizon, just as we work towards a bilateral political horizon on the Israeli-Palestinian track.

As you all know, there is never a dull moment in the Middle East. For the diplomats among you who were looking for a quiet posting – you came to the wrong place. Many difficult challenges lie ahead. But I remain optimistic because I believe deeply in the promise of Israel, and in the values which we draw from our Jewish heritage and share with the free world.

We will not succeed without your help, your sensitivity and your cooperation. And I look forward in the weeks and months ahead to working with you to promote and enhance our relations, and advance the values and the interests in peace, security and co-existence which we all share.

Thank you and Hag Atzmaut Sameah!