Remarks by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at their meeting in Jerusalem
Video of joint press conference (US State Dept)
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: I would like to warmly welcome Secretary Rice to the region and to Israel. There’s never a dull moment in the region, but this is really a crucial point in time, I mean, throughout the threats coming from the extremists – Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas. But there is a government, a Palestinian government, which meets the requirements of the international community, a government that believes in the vision of two states, a government that shows determination to change the situation.
Israel is not going to miss this opportunity. We are not going to miss the opportunity to promote a dialogue with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian government, a dialogue that can represent the widest common denominator between Israel and the Palestinians with, of course, significant political substance. This is the idea and, of course, the implementation will be in accordance to the ability of the Palestinian government to control and its ability to fulfill its obligations, especially when it comes to Israel security.
I believe that this is also an opportunity for the Arab world to support the moderates, to support the bilateral process between Israel and the Palestinians, not to dictate its outcome, and also to support Israel or to encourage Israel to take positive steps toward the Palestinians. And we also believe that the meeting in the fall can support this kind of process. I believe that the Saudi announcement of today is encouraging and thank you. Welcome.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much and thank you again for welcoming me here. I very much look forward to our conversations and to my conversations here in Israel. I’m here to follow up on the President’s initiatives. Clearly, this is a time when the United States wants to take advantage of potential opportunities to advance a two-state solution. It is, after all, the only way (inaudible) between Israel and its neighbors to also press for bilateral progress between Palestinians and Israelis and also so that Israel can have a horizon with the Arab world. We think that both are very important.
We will talk about a variety of issues. We will also, of course, talk about regional issues. I’ve just had widespread discussions about the regional circumstances here, the various threats and opportunities and I’m sure that we’ll have a chance to talk about that too. So thank you (inaudible).
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, is it final? Will Saudi Arabia participate in the full meeting and did the Saudis have any position to do so, like discussing the core issues of final status agreement?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I was not issuing invitations on this trip and it wasn’t the time to (inaudible) about the role that this international meeting can play in supporting the bilateral discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians and, as the President said, in laying the groundwork for the negotiations that can lead to a Palestinian state.
And so I’ve got lots of good ideas and input. I was encouraged by the attitude that I have seen here among all of the parties about the prospects for this international meeting, but I think it’s too early, first of all, to enter – to issue invitations. It’s certainly too early to expect people to say whether they will attend, but I was very encouraged by what I’ve heard throughout this trip.
QUESTION: A question to Minister Livni, if I may. Will Israel agree to discuss the issues of the refugees, borders, Jerusalem in the meetings and in this meeting?
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: As I said before, there is an opportunity here to discuss with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian government. I believe that there’s a need to find the widest common denominator between both sides. And there is an opportunity here, but I’m now going, of course, now to deal what’s going to be on the agenda. But basically it’s very important to put on the table things which are significant for both sides. Of course, there is a need also to promote a process that will be based on an understanding that we want to achieve something and will (inaudible) coming out of these kind of meetings and sometimes the most sensitive issue, sometime it’s not wise to put the most sensitive issue out first.
QUESTION: This is a question for Secretary Rice. How can you move ahead with discussing with each Palestinian state where the Palestinian territories are divided?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, there is a legitimate President of the Palestinian people, Mahmoud Abbas. There is a government that everybody is working with and that recognizes Abbas. President Abbas is, of course, also the chairman of the PLO. And ultimately the Palestinian people will have to choose what kind of world they will live in, what kind of state the will have. But as Minister Livni said, we do have in the Palestinian territories a government that is devoted to the international principles, the foundational principles for peace and this is an opportunity that should not be missed. It’s very clear that what happened in Gaza was against the legitimate institutions of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority.
We are not going to abandon the people of Gaza to Hamas. In fact, our efforts to make certain that humanitarian assistance can get to Gaza will continue and, as need be, intensified because we know that there are a lot of innocent Palestinians who are living in Gaza under these conditions. But this is a time for opportunity. I think it’s a time to seize opportunities. I think it is a time to proceed in a prepared and careful way because one does not want to miss opportunities by a lack of preparation. But it is nonetheless a time when I think we have to take advantage of what is the course.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: If I can add, I believe that the implementation now of any kind of understanding between Israel and the Palestinian government can be in accordance to the places of the territories in which there is an effective government which, of course, adopt and accept not only the requirements of the international community, but the basic understanding with Israel. And I believe that it is for the Palestinians to choose what kind of future they want to reach or what kind of hope they want to send to their own children. And I believe that this can be also an example working with the new government in places in which they have control.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Thank you.